Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in 1967, just 50 years ago. Today, heart transplants are commonplace procedures, and artificial hearts and pacemakers also extend lives in ways medically impossible just a few decades ago. Transplants of other organs are now routine, too, as are the attachment of prosthetic limbs and the implantation of artificial joints.
People who would have died in days gone by now can live many years longer, and those who would have been incapacitated or had their mobility severely circumscribed as a result of disease or injury in the past are able to lead full, active lives.
Barnard's first patient lived only 18 days after receiving a new heart, but that pioneering surgery and an array of other astounding medical innovations have benefitted countless persons as years passed.
So much progress has been made and so many therapeutic options are now available that we run the risk of taking medical marvels for granted.
Persons who could barely walk before receiving artificial knees or hips may complain nevertheless that the amazing devices are not absolutely perfect and have to be adjusted or replaced occasionally (possibly because they're still carrying the excess weight or leading the lethargic lives that wore out the parts they were born with). Or they may think they have a right to feel aggrieved because newer models of the synthetic joints incorporate improvements in design and fabrication and are superior to the ones they got.
Egged on by plaintiffs attorneys, they may file lawsuits against the companies that develop and manufacture such products, thereby possibly stifling the innovation that improved their lives and could improve the lives of others.
This is what Johnson & Johnson is fighting back against in a Texas federal court in the form of multidistrict litigation regarding its Pinnacle Hip Implant. For everyone's sake, we hope they win. In the meantime, millions of dollars in legal fees continue to pile up.
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