Missouri prosecutors have agreed with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)in the matter of a court order that would force the survivors’ advocate group to release confidential records containing the names and abuse stories of victims. In submitting their legal briefs to the court, the prosecutors argue that “disclosing records would violate abuse victims’ privacy rights and discourage others from coming forward. They also contend SNAP operates as a rape crisis center under Missouri law and its employees cannot provide confidential information.”
The demand for SNAP records has been widely criticized by these prosecutors, victims’ advocates, and the press due to their lack of relevancy and as a violation of privacy rights of those who’ve been the victims of a crime.
The official statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia concerning yesterday’s sentencing of former Vicar for Clergy Monsignor William Lynn to six years in prison demonstrates their insular and obtuse mind set.
Sometimes, it’s better to say nothing at all than risk further criticism and derision. I suspect the Archdiocesan statement will bring more scorn and criticism. It concludes it’s one page statement by noting that “Fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Msgr. Lynn today. We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed, it will be adjusted. We pray for Msgr. Lynn and his family at this difficult time.”
What about the survivors? Why does the Archdiocese always make it about themselves when the real concern should always remain with those who’ve been abused?
Monsignor William Lynn, the former lieutenant in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been sentenced to up to six years in prison for allowing a priest to continue to have contact with children. The criminal sentencing is unprecedented in the United States for a Catholic priest who himself did not abuse children but allowed others to continue to sexually abuse children in his position as Vicar for Clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia conviction and sentencing comes a few months prior to another criminal trial involving a Catholic bishop. In September, a Kansas City jury will hear testimony regarding allegations similar to those for which Monsignor Lynn was convicted. This time, the defendant is a sitting bishop, Most Rev. Robert Finn. Besides the criminal trial, Bishop Finn faces numerous civil sexual abuse lawsuits for cases involving Fr. Shawn Ratigan and other Kansas City-St. Joseph priests who’ve been accused of sexually molesting children.
This morning NCAA officials announced what some media outlets are calling an “unprecedented” list of sanctions against Penn State for its role in the cover-up relating to former coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of minors. There’s little doubt that the sanctions hit the renowned football program where it hurts-$60 million in fines, a four year ban from bowl games, the loss of 20 scholarships for four years, and five years probation. While the NCAA could have gone further by shutting down the program altogether, in effect it did just that for the foreseeable future. It not only stripped Joe Paterno’s wins from 1998-2011, it made it virtually impossible for the new coach to attract football talent to the school. That will cost the entire Penn State community much-needed revenue and a huge loss of prestige.
But, what does it do for those who’ve been victimized by Sandusky and the institution? It doesn’t rebuild lost innocence or trust. It doesn’t undo the emotional and psychic scars left by the heinous acts. In reality, that’s the real tragedy of sexual abuse. No amount of money or punishment for the perpetrators will undo the damage inflicted. I often tell my client survivors this. In a sense, justice in these cases is beyond our reach. The horror inflicted is too great. The only true justice is to stop sexual abuse of minors before it starts. Once it occurs, it’s really too late.
There’s much news and lawsuits relating to the faulty metal-on-metal hip replacement devices. However, not much media attention has been focused on the long-term health consequences to a patient who’s had to have revision surgery to have the metal-on-metal hip implant explanted. Perhaps, it’s common to think that once the failed hip device is removed, the medical issues will also disappear. This, unfortunately, is not often the case. Besides metallosis, a dangerous condition in which the blood flow is poisoned by the metal fragments that flow into the bloodstream as a result of the metal-on-metal parts constantly rubbing together, new research has shown that failed hip replacement implants can cause long-term damage to the bone and tissue surrounding the hip joint. This makes revision surgery that more complex and makes any eventual recovery with decent mobility that much more difficult and lengthy.
According to one media report, “This is a serious problem in the USA,” said Mathias Bostrom, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Some implants have a worse record than others, but almost all the metal-on-metal implants have issues.”
The FDA has also warned that its not just the surrounding tissue and joint that is affected by the failed metal-on-metal hip implant. Damage to the body occurs, Bostrom said, when the implant pieces move against each other and metal debris breaks off, lodging in nearby soft tissue and bone and entering the blood. Inflammation and tissue death can occur around the joint, and problems affecting the heart and nervous system, although rare, can develop from toxins entering the blood, the FDA said.
The relative popularity of these metal-on-metal hips led medical device manufacturers to manufacture their own metal-on-metal hip devices. Medical devices companies including Smith & Nephew, Zimmer Holdings, Wright Medical and Biomet Inc, and DePuy, whose parent company is Johnson & Johnson have all manufactured the metal-on-metal hips and are under FDA scrutiny.
A recent article published by Reuters notes that medical device company Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of DePuy, is taking a hard line in dealing with allegations concerning its DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement failures. DePuy, the manufacturer of both the ASR XL and the Pinnacle, is embroiled in approximately 3,000 hip replacement lawsuits concerning the ASR XL but is disputing complaints about the Pinnacle hip. According to Reuters, “Legal experts say J&J is taking a harder line defending itself against Pinnacle metal-on-metal claims, hiring a top product liability defense firm and refusing to recognize patient complaints or pay for replacing the hip devices – known as revision surgery. It maintains the device performs better than other all-metal hip implants.
Paul Voorhorst, director of biostatistics and data management at DePuy, told an FDA advisory panel last month that the Pinnacle metal-on-metal device “is performing consistent with or better than other metal-on-metal products.”
Of course, Voorhorst’s testimony doesn’t square with the numerous Pinnacle hip patients who are returning to their surgeons with nearly identical complaints as those concerning the ASR XL. In fact, the FDA has determined that all metal-on-metal hip implants should be scrutinized and progress report programs submitted to the federal agency for review.
Reuters interviewed one such hip patient. “Harriett Bowen, 64, from Salisbury, Maryland, received the Pinnacle all-metal hip in 2008. She soon developed the same symptoms as Grisham: pain, limited mobility and elevated levels of cobalt and chromium in her blood. In July 2011, Bowen’s left hip fractured at the implant site, requiring more surgery.
Bowen’s doctor determined she had a cobalt and chromium count of 7 micrograms per liter (mcg/L), a level flagged by UK health authorities as worrying. “He said, ‘Look, we’ve got to get this thing out of you.’ It nearly scared me to death.”
Unlike Grisham, she has received no compensation for the repair from J&J. Bowen is suing J&J.
Orthopedic specialists who are monitoring the DePuy Pinnacle hip as well as all the other metal-on-metal hip replacements that have come under scrutiny since the FDA warning last year, are predicting that more than 10% of DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip replacements will fail in the next 2-3 years. This is more bad news for the beleaguered orthodopedic division of Johnson & Johnson which as already lost $3 billion as a result of its recall of the DePuy ASR XL hip device.
According to Reuters, “We’re simply seeing the tip of the iceberg with metal-on-metal failures,” Dr Mary O’Connor, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, said of the entire class of metal-on-metal devices. O’Connor said she does not use metal-on-metal hip implants because she has been concerned about metal poisoning for years.”
While many orthopedic surgeons have discontinued use of the metal-on-metal hip implants due to the FDA scrutiny and data demonstrating higher than acceptable failure rates, the popularity of the metal-on-metal devices prior to the recent revelation of design problems means that many people are now suffering the side effects of these failed hip implants. Hip replacement patients have complained about pain, swelling, a loss of mobility, and with some, a dislocation of the hip prothesis.
Officials at Smith & Nephew have announced a voluntary recall of it metal hip socket liner used in conjunction with its R3 Acetabular System. The Smith & Nephew hip device that’s been recalled is similar in design to another faulty hip system-the Zimmer Durom Cup in that both systems are metal-on-metal devices and both have experienced higher than industry acceptable failure rates. While the Smith & Nephew R3 is similar to the Zimmer Durom Cup, it shares even closer similarity in design structure to the DePuy Pinnacle Ultamet hip system.
Of the approximately half million metal-on-metal hip replacements implanted in the US, only 7,700 of them were Smith & Nephew R3 hip systems. While statistically small, if you have a Smith & Nephew R3 hip device that’s failed, it doesn’t matter. You may have suffered severe pain, difficulty walking, metallosis (blood poisoning resulting from the wear of the metal-on-metal parts shedding metallic ions into the bloodstream). While Smith & Nephew doesn’t have many metal-on-metal hips implanted on patients, it’s important to keep in mind that ALL metal-on-metal hip devices are under FDA scrutiny for high failure rates.
According to Reuters, “The decision follows an analysis of clinical results showing that 1.6 percent of patients with the system needed revision surgery each year, which is above the 1 percent guideline set by Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.”
Pope Benedict XVI has taken the unusual step of removing a bishop in Slovakia. According to the Washington Post, “On Monday, the Vatican said Benedict had “relieved from pastoral care” Bishop Robert Bezak of Trnava, Slovakia.” Now, the words in italics (placed there by the Washington Post editors) is significant. Normally, bishops who are problematic are usually told or encouraged to resign. They aren’t forcibly removed from their episcopal office. This usually involves mismanagement of the particular diocese and rarely, if ever, for issues of sexual abuse. For instance, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned but was not forced to resign or fired by Pope John Paul II. The Post article goes on to discuss whether the Pope might fire bishops who refuse to remove priests accused of sexual abuse or covered up for priests who abused children.
The more important point is this-the Pope can and indeed has in this instance, demonstrated powers normally reserved to an employer in the secular world. In other words, the Pope has shown that he enjoys supervisory as well as hiring and firing authority over bishops. In priest abuse lawsuits that name the Pope or a Vatican department as a defendant, the Church lawyer in this country Jeffrey Lena has argued successfully that the Pope has no jurisdictional control over the US bishops. Thus far, courts have tended to agree with Lena. This new incident may demonstrate to US courts that the Pope does indeed have and can exercise what is akin to employer control over an employee. I’m sure that Lena and other Church lawyers are busy trying to figure out a way to “spin” this latest development and preserve the illusion that bishops are autonomous in their own dioceses. However, the Pope’s latest actions in removing the Slovak bishop belie this argument.
The US Food and Drug Administration will commence two days of hearings on issues relating to the safety and effectiveness of metal-on-metal hip replacement devices. The hearings come in the wake of numerous metal-on-metal hip replacement lawsuits that allege the medical devices suffer from faulty design and may lead to a serious medical condition known as metalosis where the metal parts of the replacement hip grind against each other and metal debris enter the bloodstream leading to metal poisoning.
According to an article in today’s NY Times, “Why were these devices implanted in 500,000 people without adequate testing?
“There was not enough data to support” their widespread use, said Dr. Henrik Malchau, an orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Under F.D.A. rules, orthopedic implant makers did not have to run clinical trials of the hips before marketing them, nor were they required to follow patients afterward to see how they fared. Doctors embraced the implants without evidence they were better or more durable than existing ones.
Many doctors say they adopted the devices believing they would help reduce a complication of hip replacement — the possibility of implant dislocation.”
In May 2011, the FDA ordered five hip replacement makers to conduct studies on how patients who’d received the metal-on-metal hips were doing. Thus far, only the Biomet study plan has been accepted by the FDA. The federal agency has rejected plans from DePuy, a division of Johnson & Johnson as well as Zimmer, both of whom are considered leaders in the hip replacement industry.