Earlier this week Federal Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges, in the United States District Court District of New Jersey, conducted a hearing on matters related to the Human Tissue Litigation stemming from the improper and illegal harvesting of tissue subsequently used by doctors and hospital across the country in surgical procedures. Defendants Medtronic, Spinal Graft Technologies, and Regeneration Technologies had all sought to limit the disclosure of information available to the Plalintiffs in this class action litigation. The tissue recipient representatives argued that not only the donor information should be produced for the benefit and safety of general public but so too should all the internal files, research and history of relationship between the harvesting company Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS), which is no longer in business, and each other defendant.
The court subsequently ruled that the defendants will have to produce all relevant documents in their custody to the victims through their counsel within 90 days. The court has also ordered cooperation between the parties in attempting to gather documents which may be sequestered by state prosecutors and the FDA related to their investigations and the pending indictments of BTS representatives.
In addition the plaintiffs also argued to the court that the notice provided to the medical care providers by the defendants was insufficient to warn of the true risks to which tissue recipients have been exposed. These risks include infection from Hepatitis and HIV as well as syphilis, clostridium and breakdown of tissue that would not have been medically appropriate for implantation because of age. The court will be entertaining further argument on whether the Tissue Processors will be required to provide a more accurate and detailed disclosure to hospitals in order to filter the word down to tissue recipients.
On a separate note, NY Governor Pataki signed into law on July 26, 2006 a new piece of legislation increasing criminal penalties for illegally harvesting body parts in NY State.