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Amy Reed, MD, Morcellator Opponent, Dies of Uterine Cancer


Amy Reed, MD, PhD, an anesthesiologist whose laparoscopic hysterectomy in October 2013 called into question the safety of power morcellation, died Wednesday, May 24, at 44 years of age from uterine cancer.

Dr Reed, a mother of six, underwent the hysterectomy at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, to remove fibroid tumors. Power morcellation, intended to shred uterine tissue for removal through a laparoscopic incision, dispersed and upstaged an undiagnosed uterine leiomyosarcoma inside her abdomen.

While she battled through a series of surgeries and procedures, Dr Reed joined her husband, Hooman Noorchashm, MD, PhD, in a high-profile campaign to ban the use of the devices during gynecologic procedures and bolster oversight of all medical devices by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The couple pressed for government investigations and legislation, coauthored articles, testified before the FDA, and shone a spotlight on women who had died after morcellation-upstaged occult uterine cancer.[...]

In February, Dr Reed and her husband achieved a measure of vindication when a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified "serious gaps" in the FDA's system for spotting problems with medical devices such as power morcellators after they reach the marketplace. Although the first power morcellator was approved in 1991, nobody had reported an instance of the device dispersing occult cancer to the FDA until Dr Reed did in December 2013. Hospital executives and surgeons told the GAO that until the FDA ordered the boxed warning in 2014, they didn't feel obliged to report such incidents because the morcellators weren't malfunctioning, in their opinion, but were performing as intended.

In the professional debate about the benefits and risks of power morcellation, Dr Noorchashm, a heart surgeon, made his points in a steady stream of sharply worded and sometimes confrontational letters and emails to FDA officials, device manufacturers, politicians, and fellow clinicians. In comparison, Dr Reed was a milder advocate, although no less engaging.

Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Center for Health Research, recalled the impression Dr Reed made when the think tank honored her and Dr Noorchashm at an awards luncheon in 2015.

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© 2016 by The National Center for Health Research. 

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