Recipients of DePuy ASR Hip Implants Should Be Wary of Physicians Letters Requesting Release of Medical Records

In August 2010, medical device manufacturer DePuy announced a recall of thousands of its defective ASR hip implants. Since that time, implant recipients have reported receiving letters mailed from their physicians’ offices urging them to visit their doctors so that MRIs and other tests can be conducted. The timing of these mailings is no coincidence. […]

In August 2010, medical device manufacturer DePuy announced a recall of thousands of its defective ASR hip implants. Since that time, implant recipients have reported receiving letters mailed from their physicians’ offices urging them to visit their doctors so that MRIs and other tests can be conducted. The timing of these mailings is no coincidence. Patients who receive these letters should contact an attorney before acting or responding.

At first glance, these letters appear to be nothing more than innocuous correspondence to patients from their physicians. However, included within these letters are multiple requests to sign a release form authorizing DePuy access to the patient’s medical information, as well as an enclosed copy of the release form itself. The letters urge patients to sign the authorization form so that DePuy can efficiently process the patient’s claim for follow-up treatment or revision surgery.

While recipients of the DePuy ASR hip implants should visit a doctor to discuss any potential medical problems, they should under no circumstances sign any authorization form which allows DePuy access to their medical records. By signing an authorization form, a patient effectively allows DePuy to scrutinize their health information for evidence that might supply a basis to deny coverage for any follow-up medical treatment, even if that evidence is dubious or scientifically questionable. If DePuy altruistically wished to stand by its initial claim of paying for follow-up treatments and revision surgeries associated with the recall, medical authorizations of this type would be unnecessary. Indeed, the authorization forms patients have reported have conspicuously stated that DePuy will use the patient’s released medical information for purposes of “manufacturer’s investigation.” This language suggests DePuy may be using the authorization forms as a guise to limit its liability towards recipients rather than for good faith efforts to fix any problems its defective hip implants have created.

Another legally questionable aspect of the letters are statements urging patients to cooperate with DePuy so the company can process patients’ claims more efficiently. These statements are presumptuous in so much they surmise that patients will agree to use the DePuy internal claims process in the first place. Patients are under no obligation to remedy their injuries by using the DePuy claims process. Instead, they have every right to utilize the judicial system for resolution of their claims. Certainly, use of the civil legal system with the assistance of an attorney is the recommended approach when negotiating a claims settlement with DePuy. Alternatively, if patients do decide to use the DePuy internal claims scheme, DePuy will likely settle for only pennies on the dollar since such patients do not have the assistance of legal counsel. Utilization of the DePuy internal claims system would likely result in a decidedly one-sided resolution largely in favor of DePuy. For this reason, patients should proceed cautiously.

 

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