On April 9th, 2020, ABC aired the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy and the storyline featured problems with Dr. Webber’s metal-on-metal hip replacement.
After viewers finished the episode, they took to google to learn more about metal on metal hips. So mctlaw’s attorneys hosted a Facebook Live event to explain how real-life medical problems with metal poisoning inspired this Grey’s Anatomy episode. You can watch a recording of the Facebook Live event above, and the transcript of the video is below.
Grey’s Anatomy FB Live
[00:00:00] Ilyas Sayeg: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Welcome to mctlaw’s Facebook live presentation on metal on metal hips. The real story behind the drama. My name is Ilyas Sayeg, and uh, this is mctlaw. We are a law firm that has been litigating metal on metal hip [00:00:20] cases for many, many years. So we filed the very first metal-on-metal hip replacement case, a lawsuit in the country back in 2008 and we had been litigating these cases ever since
Michael Cowgill: [00:00:30]
Hi there everybody, my name is Michael Cowgill.
I’m also a member of the MCT law hip litigation team.
[00:00:40] Michele Stephan: [00:00:40] Hi everybody. My name is Michele and I’m also on the hip litigation team. Um, and we’re here tonight because of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy that aired, uh, earlier this week. Um, if you’re a fan, a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve seen over the past few weeks that something’s happened to Dr. Webber, he’s had a mystery [00:01:00] illness that nobody could figure out, and a season finale.
It was. It was discovered that his problems were stemming from his metal and metal hip implants. Let’s go ahead and take a look at that clip.
Clip From Grey’s Anatomy
[00:01:20] Grey’s Anatomy Video Playback: [00:01:20] I’d say we should bring in someone who isn’t family.
That person doesn’t exist.
Wait, don’t cut, just stop. I was going over Dr. Weber’s history again, and he got a hip replacement three years ago in Boston. [00:01:40] You need to step away from the sterile field.
Let’s me now. That’s it. You’re done. We need to restart. Listen to me. Okay. She told me to do the [00:02:00] biopsy already. His hip replacement was made out of cobalt. We did a heavy metals test and it came back, negative, right? Not for Cobalt, that test is mercury, arsenic, and lead. We wouldn’t see that.
That hip is deteriorating.
Bailey, Cobalt poisoning would explain dementia, depression, hallucination, tremors, everything. [00:02:20] Okay. And every second it’s in his body is deteriorating, please trust me.
Change of plans, we need to draw some blood. DeLuca, run this down to the lab. Tell them the chief says this to the front of the line.
Attorney Discussion on Metal Hips
[00:02:40] Michael Cowgill: [00:02:47] Shonda Rhimes knows drama. And that’s, that’s what we got there. Some metal on metal, hip drama. And, uh, you know, after this episode aired last week, we noticed a spike in traffic to our firm’s site. And we realized that, uh, you know, [00:03:00] sometimes fiction and reality collide and that’s kind of what we have here.
So we wanted to take the opportunity to explain to everyone, you know, the real story behind metal on metal, hip replacements.
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:03:12] Thank you, Michael. So really the first question is what is a hip replacement? And what we’re going to do is we’re going to put on the screen a photo of [00:03:20] what a hip replacement looks like.
And what you’re looking at now are the four main components that people typically get when they have a hip replacement. The femoral stem. It’s actually something that an orthopedic surgeon places down into your leg, uh, and the surgeon will attach, typically a metal ball on top of the femoral [00:03:40] stem, so that you can see is labeled as the femoral head.
Your hip, meanwhile, will get a metal cup placed into it, and on the inside of that metal, cup will click into place a plastic liner. It’s made of polyethylene, a much harder version of your kitchen countertop cutting board, [00:04:00] uh, but the same type of plastic. So what you typically have is a metal-on-plastic hip replacement.
This is a tried and true technology. It’s been used since the 60s and used very, very successfully. Most orthopedic surgeons actually discuss a hip replacement like this as the greatest advancement in medical [00:04:20] science in a hundred years. In short, these hip replacements work and they work well. So what happened with metal on metal hips.
Michael Cowgill: [00:04:30] Thanks, Ilyas. Why don’t we go ahead and take a look at a metal on metal hip to show you what was really not a great, so not, not a so great advancement in scientific literature. Uh, [00:04:40] can we bring up that metal on metal hip. So what you’ll see here is very similar, but there’s one key difference. The plastic liner is now out of the picture.
So what you’ve got is the metal head rubbing against the metal cup. So you have a direct metal-on-metal connection, and maybe in theory that [00:05:00] sounds nice. You know, you’re talking about metal, it’s strong, right? We all know that steel girder and so forth, and maybe that means this thing will last longer.
It’ll, it’ll, it’ll give you more longevity. You’ll get more use out of it. Well, unfortunately, that really hasn’t panned out. And like Ilyas said, you know, the metal and plastic came about in the 60s. Uh, these metal on metal hips were also, [00:05:20] uh, invented in the 60s, and they were only used till 1972 and that’s because of the negative effects of metal wear debris.
Effects of Metal on Metal Hips
Michele Stephan: [00:05:30] Thanks, Michael. I can, I can talk about what metal wear debris is and what it does to the human body. Um, as you saw in, um. [00:05:40] The, the last, uh, diagram when the metal ball rubs against the metal shell, there are tiny metal particles that are emitted into the body right around the hip area. With these metal particles do is they can, um, eat away at your tissue, [00:06:00] at your muscle and at your bone.
Um, people who have these symptoms will sometimes start feeling like their hip implants, you know, might be loose. Uh, they have instability in their leg. They might experience some pain, um, or they may just have a general feeling that, their leg just doesn’t feel right. Um, and that could [00:06:20] be that these metal particles are eating away at the tissue in the bone that holds that hip implant in place.
Um, they also, um, these particles are so tiny that they can get into your bloodstream and this goes to what you saw on Grey’s anatomy, and when the metal gets into your bloodstream. Um, there had [00:06:40] been reports of what are called systemic injuries. So people lose their hair, they can develop tremors, and they get skin rashes.
Um, there have been reports of heart issues, um, and then the cognitive function, like what Dr. Weber had. Then, the science, uh, as [00:07:00] it pertains to what these metal particles due to tissue in bone is rather solid. Um, it’s still emerging as to these other systemic injuries. Um, if you find that you have a mysterious illness that you can’t figure out, it may be in your best interest to go see your doctor and tell them that you have a metal on [00:07:20] metal hip implants.
Or if you’re experiencing problems, you know, with your current hip implants, um, to find out if you have heavy metal toxicity, doctors will do a blood test. Uh, when the blood test comes back, they’ll be able to tell the levels of cobalt and chromium in your bloodstream. Um, if [00:07:40] they find that it’s necessary, the doctors may order what’s called a Mars MRI, which is a special type of MRI that can look at the tissue and the bone when you have a metal implant in your body.
Um, often if doctors find that there’s a problem, they’ll indicate or they’ll recommend to you that you have the, uh, metal and metal [00:08:00] implant removed and it’d be replaced with a different type of implant that’s no metal on metal
FDA Product ‘Testing’
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:08:05] Okay. So one, one question and one problem is, is this isn’t a new problem.
As Michael mentioned, these implants had been experimented with in the 60s and were abandoned by 1972 how did they [00:08:20] make their way back onto the market? And we need to discuss how the FDA regulates these medical devices. And what you need to know is that the FDA didn’t begin regulating medical devices until 1976.
And unfortunately, uh, it allowed a way for device manufacturers to put brand new [00:08:40] devices onto the market without ever testing for safety or effectiveness. All they would have to do is compare their new device to something that was already on the market, and they’re even allowed to compare it to these previous devices.
If the devices predate the regulations and if the [00:09:00] devices have a history of failure. And because they were allowed to do that in the early 2000s, all of these manufacturers began to market metal on metal hip implants by comparing these new metal on metal had been plants to the ones that failed and were abandoned by 1972 so in effect, [00:09:20] what they were doing was promising.
You as the, the, the, the public that were buying their implants, that they were going to do a better job with these than they did in the 1970s without ever testing whether, uh, what they were saying was accurate and you all unfortunately became their Guinea pigs. And that’s just [00:09:40] unfortunate.
Michael Cowgill: [00:09:41] Thanks for that, Ilyas.
You know, people might also be wondering, really. What, what is the impact of that FDA loophole? And you know, how has this impacted everyday people and our clients are diverse. We, we’ve got an array of clients and we’ve seen an array of impacts. So, you know, you’ve got people who are dance instructors, construction workers, [00:10:00] people who rely on their bodies for making their livelihood.
And then you’ve got people who are avid recreational list, hikers, bikers, runners, and these middle of middle hips were actually. Targeted toward these people, that it was targeted toward younger, more active patients because the idea was metal would wear at a lower [00:10:20] rate than plastic, and they would last longer.
Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the truth. It wasn’t true in the 1970s and it wasn’t true in the 2000s. Uh, and you know, w. Now we see that people have lost their livelihoods. People can’t return to do the hobbies and the activities that they really love and hold dear. So you have people whose lives have been turned upside down, a [00:10:40] similar to dr Weber’s life.
It’s a, you know, it really impacts you and it can create a significant quality of life decrease.
Michele Stephan: [00:10:48] And you would be thinking. That with our FDA, wouldn’t this product be recalled? And the answer really comes down to the fact that the FDA in the United States doesn’t [00:11:00] have the stringent guidelines or the tracking capability as other governments and other, um, in other countries.
Um, so in the United States, very few of these hip implants have actually been recalled. And the problem that stems from that is that doctors and surgeons relying on the FDA for [00:11:20] guidance in treating their patients. And there may be doctors that are left in the dark because they haven’t been told about the issues that come from these implants.
Um, that’s why it’s important for you. If you are having some type of mysterious symptom to specify to your doctor [00:11:40] that you do have a metal on metal implants. Now, we’ve talked tonight about all of the bad things that can come from these metal and metal implants. Um, I don’t want to spoil, uh, the next episode of Grey’s anatomy.
But what we have seen is that once the, uh, offending [00:12:00] product is taken out of, um, client’s bodies there, there is a degree of recovery. There’s some damage that is longstanding. Um, and that’s going to depend on everybody’s individual circumstance. And that’s why it’s very important if you are having any trouble that you go to your doctor and you started investigating this now.
Filing a Lawsuit Against Metal on Metal Hip Manufacturers
[00:12:20] Michael Cowgill: [00:12:21] So you might be wondering, how do I qualify for, for, you know, any legal action related to a metal on metal hip? Do I have a metal on metal hip? Uh, well, you know, the first thing to do maybe to obtain some medical records and talk to your doctor to see if you in fact have a metal on metal hip. Nonetheless, you should also go to mctlaw.com and [00:12:40] you know, later on, you’ll see on the screen our contact information reach out to us.
Uh, we can help with obtaining medical records, reviewing those records. Seeing if there’s a possible case here.
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:12:52] Another question many people have is, uh, most people have never been part of a lawsuit. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know whether they should do [00:13:00] it. Uh, and sometimes there’s just a bad connotation that comes with being involved in a lawsuit.
And you shouldn’t feel bad about investigating whether you need to file a lawsuit. Uh, and you shouldn’t feel bad about having to file a lawsuit if one of these manufacturers actually does make a Guinea pig out of you. Uh, give us a call. Uh, we’ll look at your case for you and we’ll try to minimize the impact [00:13:20] on your daily life.
Uh, but what’ll typically happen is, uh, we may be filing a lawsuit for you somewhere. We handle that. Uh, there might be some documents you might have to fill out over the course of a few months. Uh, and, and at some point, you might have to sit for a deposition. Uh, what is a deposition that’s going to be where you sit at a table with one of your attorneys, [00:13:40] one of us sitting right next to you.
And the other side’s attorney asking you some questions about what you went through, uh, what you felt, uh, they might be looking at your medical records and asking you some questions, uh, and, and that’s it. You just answer what you know. Uh, apart from that, what we’re going to be doing potentially for a period of many years is fighting to get the [00:14:00] documents out of that company.
They’re not going to want to part with the documents that show that they were putting profit above safety. And we’re going to be fighting to get those documents. And as we do that, we’re going to build leverage to hopefully get a settlement for you and if we need to go all the way to trial, and that is something that we’ll be prepared to do if we need to.
[00:14:20] Michele Stephan: [00:14:21] Absolutely, Ilyas. If anybody has any questions, please go ahead. And, um. Uh, write them on your screen. Um, we’ll stay on for a few minutes to answer any questions that you may have. Uh, you can also give a call to the office, um, with any questions.
[00:14:40] So while we’re waiting for questions, uh, we do hope that everybody is keeping themselves safe. Uh, during the COVID19 pandemic, our offices are open. We have offices in Sarasota, Florida, and Seattle, Washington, and also in Washington, D C. [00:15:00] um, we’re fortunate that our technology allows us to all work remotely.
Uh, we do so on a typical normal basis because we travel a lot. I’m handling these cases nationwide, both in federal and state courts.
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:15:16] Michelle, we have a question from one of our viewers and the question is, [00:15:20] how do I know what kind of hip I have? Uh, the way that we’re going to, and, and when people call us, uh, what, what we do is we ask them to go to their, uh, medical provider.
Usually the orthopedic surgeon. Uh, and there’s a very particular medical record that will always identify the hip implant. And it’s, [00:15:40] it’s, uh, comes along with the operative note. That’s the surgical notes the doctor made after performing the surgery. Along with that is something called an operative record.
And, uh, many of you may not know, but what actually ends up happening in most of these surgeries. Is that a sales rep goes into the operating [00:16:00] room with the surgeon. The sales rep brings boxed devices into the O.R. The surgeon will cut the patient up, cut the patient open, uh, and will figure out exactly what size device is needed.
We’ll ask the sales rep, okay, I need a S a size 56, and the sales rep will then get [00:16:20] the box size 56 device, hand it to, uh, a nurse. The nurse will start opening the box. There’ll be a little label inside that box. That label is a sticky label. It gets put on a page. And the sales transaction occurs when that sticker gets put on the page.
The sales representative in the [00:16:40] room, and you didn’t even know that while your surgeon was operating on you. A transaction took place. That document becomes the main way that we identify what type of hip implant that you get. And
Michele Stephan: [00:16:52] Ilyas, I can just add to that. Often, after you’ve had your hip implant, you’re going to get a little card for your [00:17:00] wallets, um, that will identify, uh, the manufacturer of the product, uh, and the type of product that you might have.
Michael Cowgill: [00:17:09] I think we’ve got another question here. Someone asking. You know, do, do we sue your doctors, your, is your doctor someone that needs to be sued in this process? And the answer to that though, the simple answer [00:17:20] is typically no. So, uh, these lawsuits are focused on the manufacturers of the metal and metal hip products.
Uh, you know, as we discussed, or as Michelle said earlier, it’s really. Yes. The FDA has this loophole for approval of these products, uh, and it’s kind of dropped the ball here. So manufacturers have been able to get these through, [00:17:40] and doctors who rely on the FDA aren’t getting the information they need. Um, so it’s not necessarily, you know, a doctor’s fault.
It’s not something that we’re going to bring against a doctor. It’s about the manufacturer who created the product.
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:17:51] Yeah. And, and to be clear, what we don’t do here, we do not pursue these like malpractice claims. And as Michael was saying, we don’t go after the [00:18:00] doctor. Uh, we want the doctor on our side. Uh, so if there’s any type of malpractice element where you believe your doctor may have done something wrong, uh, we can help you go to different attorneys to look at that. But we have a strategy on our side, we do not think it’s worth blaming the doctor when the doctor got duped as well.
[00:18:20] Michael Cowgill: [00:18:20] And Ilyas, so it looks like we’ve got another good question here. Maybe you can field that. So why didn’t the government recall all of these hips?
Ilyas Sayeg: [00:18:28] Sure. Uh, and, and unfortunately, um, the FDA in this country doesn’t do its job. Uh, we should all expect and reasonably, uh, that the [00:18:40] FDA’s sole purpose to exist is to make sure that medical products are safe and effective. Before, people are allowed to sell them to us. They do not do that for devices. Uh, they, they literally do not require devices to be tested for safety or effectiveness before they’re sold in the same way they, they, uh, don’t [00:19:00] have a, uh, required process to test how these products do once they’re on the market.
Uh, it is voluntary for the device manufacturers to report when devices fail. They get to pick, uh, if and when they are or aren’t going to report. So what you have is a [00:19:20] process with the FDA where there’s severe under-reporting. Um, and, and frankly, uh, the FDA is usually headed by somebody who’s been working in the industry.
Uh, I, I think that, um, working on these cases have shown us that unfortunately, Australia is the leader in the world to have a regulator [00:19:40] that actually, uh, prioritizes the safety of patients instead of, um, the priority, the profits of the manufacturers.
Michele Stephan: [00:19:48] Unfortunately, and as you can see, there’s, there’s been a lot of information that we’ve learned about not only the FDA, um, but about different government’s [00:20:00] tracking systems and also different manufacturers.
These cases are complex. Um, but we’ve been handling them for many, many years and we’re, you know, well-suited and well able. And we are a force against these manufacturers. We hope that the information that we’ve provided to you tonight has been [00:20:20] helpful. Again, if you would like to discuss your case, please, uh, go onto our website, MCT law.com and we’d be happy to help you have a good night, everyone. [00:20:40]