Consumers Union Seeks Additional Protections For Implant Recipients

Posted on February 5, 2014

Perhaps you’ve heard of California’s Lemon Law for automobiles.  How this works is fairly straightforward.  When a vehicle suffers from an issue, especially if that issue is related to a defect that led to a recall, the consumer brings the automobile in to a dealer to get the necessary repairs.

When all goes is planned, the driver is on their way and the hope is that safety will be assured.  However, if the issue continues to present itself, the driver has certain rights afforded to them.  They are protected from the exorbitant costs of additional repairs or of the purchase of an entirely new vehicle by the Lemon Law.

It’s a vital protection for California drivers, but unfortunately, this protection does not extend to the owners of medical devices.  This is particularly disheartening when you consider the plight that certain recipients of knee and hip implants have gone through.  When these items fail, people usually don’t have the same protections that the Lemon Law could provide.

Revision surgeries typically may require the patient or their insurance agent to foot the bill.  The only recourse in such situations is to file a lawsuit (something that the recipients of the DePuy ASR metal on metal hip implant know a thing or two about).

Consumer Reports and their policy arm Consumers Union want to see things change.  They believe that consumers could benefit greatly from a Lemon Law-type rule for medical implants.  That way, if the device fails before a given timeframe outlined by a doctor prior to a procedure, the recipient of the device would not be on the hook for the expenses that the new implant would create.

These expenses aren’t exactly minor either.  As Consumers Union notes in an editorial on the matter, the complicated nature of revision surgeries means that they’re going to be costlier than the initial operation.  Patients tend to take longer to recuperate from the surgery, and even if all goes well, there are certain risks in the ensuing years.  This isn’t a minor problem either.  The article linked to above points out that almost one in five hip replacement surgeries and one in ten knee replacement surgeries are a revision of an already-implanted product.

Because of all this, Consumers Union has called for a warranty that provides protections for hip and knee implants over the course of two decades.  Should a given device fail before that time, the company behind the device would foot the bill for all expenses accrued in the process of seeking out a revision surgery.  They want patients to be able to track the status of a claim, and they also believe that patients should still be entitled to filing a lawsuit during that timeframe if they feel it is deserved.

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