He’s turned into a crusader after his MLB umpiring career and his quality of life took a hit from a defective medical device approved by the FDA.
On Tuesday, March 31st 2009, former Major League umpire Mark Hirschbeck joined others harmed by dangerous medical devices and their families in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress about the Medical Device Safety Act, legislation that would restore to thousands of Americans the right to seek justice through the civil justice system. Thousands of unfortunate Americans have suffered or even died because of defective medical devices like heart defibrillators, artificial valves, and defective knees and hips.
It’s an uphill battle. In 2008, the Bush Conservative-stacked U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the infamous Riegel v. Medtronic decision that manufacturers of Class III medical devices that have been approved by the FDA’s equally controversial pre-market approval process, are essentially immune from liability. Not taken into account by the court was the deplorable condition of the FDA as an agency during the final year of the Bush-Cheney tenure, and how such agency approvals were too often destined to succeed without having to present compelling evidence of devices actually being safe, or subjecting such evidence to any genuinely independent scrutiny.
The Riegel decision is the subject of the Medical Device Safety Act that would reify an injured patient’s right to sue in the courts when medical devices have failed, or even been recalled. In his majority decision, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that permitting state juries to impose liability on the maker of an approved device “disrupts the federal scheme” under which the FDA has the responsibility for evaluating the risks and benefits of a new device.
Mark Hirschbeck is a patriotic American not usually associated with “disrupting federal schemes.” But since 2002, his MLB umpiring career and his quality of life have been disrupted drastically by six surgeries on his right hip – one arthroscopic and five hip replacement procedures. Most of his pain and suffering was triggered by a defective ceramic-lined implant. The ceramic liner simply cracked. What was supposed to last fifteen years lasted just six weeks. A proud man who used to umpire at the highest professional level now has trouble getting down to the ballpark to watch his daughters and son play. No wonder he’s become a crusader.
Alexandra Reed writes for Connecticut personal injury law firm, Stratton Faxon.
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