Amy Reed, Doctor Who Fought a Risky Medical Procedure, Dies at 44

Some insurers began declining coverage for morcellation, in addition to one major producer took its morcellators off the market. Use of the technique dropped.

Dr. Reed, an anesthesiologist in addition to the mother of six children, underwent surgery involving morcellation in 2013, when, at 40, she had her uterus removed because of fibroids. The operation was performed at Brigham in addition to Women’s Hospital in Boston, which is actually affiliated with Harvard Medical School, where both Dr. Reed in addition to Dr. Noorchashm had teaching positions. A biopsy after the operation found of which Dr. Reed had a hidden leiomyosarcoma, an aggressive type of cancer.

Only then were Dr. Reed in addition to her husband told of which her surgeon had used a power morcellator to slice up her uterus. The device allows doctors to work through smaller slits rather than big, open incisions, to ensure patients can heal faster in addition to run less risk of bleeding in addition to infection.

At of which time, morcellation was performed on 50,000 women a year inside the United States to help remove fibroids, or to remove the entire uterus.

The device had sprayed malignant cells around inside Dr. Reed’s abdomen, leaving her with an advanced, Stage 4 cancer.

As physicians, Dr. Reed in addition to Dr. Noorchashm knew at the time of which her morcellation procedure could be a death sentence. As a surgeon himself, Dr. Noorchashm was outraged at the idea of shredding potentially cancerous tissue inside a body cavity. He had been trained to cut around tumors whenever possible, not through them, precisely because slicing into them could spread the cancer cells.

Dr. Reed quickly embarked on a series of aggressive treatments, although she still suffered one recurrence after another, in her abdomen, lungs in addition to spine. She had several major operations in addition to received arduous courses of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy in addition to experimental treatment.

The couple fought the medical establishment as fiercely as they did the cancer, seeking to ban morcellation. They sent thousands of emails to the F.D.A., device makers, hospitals, legislators, professional societies in addition to individual doctors, in addition to they reached out to news organizations to publicize their cause.

Dr. Noorchashm also collected the names in addition to histories of women whose cancer had spread after morcellation, enlisting them, or their survivors, inside the crusade.


Dr. Amy Reed with her husband, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, in addition to their children in their backyard in Yardley, Pa., inside the summer of 2015.

Jennifer Capozzola

Their activism, alienating some colleagues in addition to aggravating administrators, came at a cost. Dr. Noorchashm had been a rising star in cardiothoracic surgery at Brigham in addition to Women’s, where his wife had the operation, although as he continued to criticize its gynecology department, his career there began to stall.

He in addition to Dr. Reed were both hired by the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to moved there in 2014. Both had extended family in in addition to around Philadelphia.

They had apparently burned their bridges at Harvard. At one point, when Dr. Reed needed to return to Brigham in addition to Women’s for a medical procedure, she in addition to Dr. Noorchashm were stunned to find of which the hospital had assigned a guard to inspect their bags in addition to escort them at all times, for security reasons. Dr. Noorchashm called a lawyer. A judge put a stop to the escort, issuing a restraining order against the hospital.

The gynecology profession also fought back against Dr. Noorchashm in addition to Dr. Reed, insisting of which leiomyosarcoma was so rare of which the benefit of morcellation — the ability to have minimally invasive surgery — far outweighed any risk.

Before 2013, the F.D.A. had received no reports of uterine cancers being spread by morcellators. although after Dr. Reed in addition to her husband went public — interviewed by newspapers, magazines in addition to TV news shows — reports began to pour in. Dr. Reed, with her hair gone in addition to her youngest child sometimes climbing onto her lap during interviews, was a sympathetic figure.

The couple’s efforts gained traction. The F.D.A. responded by studying published in addition to unpublished medical data on morcellation. Before then, estimates of how many women with fibroids would likely have undiagnosed leiomyosarcomas or different uterine sarcomas were based on studies of varying reliability, in addition to ranged through 1 in 10,000 to in 1 in 500. although the F.D.A. concluded in April 2014 of which hidden sarcomas were more common than earlier estimates had stated — in addition to probably occurred in about one in 350 women with fibroids. The tumors are extremely difficult to detect without surgery.

Soon after the F.D.A. issued its findings, one maker of morcellators, Johnson & Johnson, pulled its devices off the market. although others remained.

In November 2014, the F.D.A. went further, recommending of which power morcellators not be used inside the vast majority of women having fibroid surgery. Using the device in women with undetected sarcomas, of which said, “may spread cancer in addition to decrease the long-term survival of patients.” The F.D.A. portrayed the statement as a “safety communication,” not as an announcement of a completely new regulation.

Morcellator use dropped significantly, although many gynecologists still favored of which, in addition to the devices remained available. Dr. Noorchashm in addition to Dr. Reed would likely not settle for less than a complete ban, in addition to continued to agitate. They prodded legislators to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate morcellation.

In a report issued in February, the G.A.O. criticized the F.D.A.’s method of collecting data on problems stemming through morcellation, noting of which the system was dependent on voluntary reports through doctors, who frequently fail to report bad outcomes.

The F.D.A. said of which agreed of which of which needed a better system to detect harm to patients. By September 2016, the agency had received 285 reports of uterine cancer being spread by morcellation.

Amy Josephine Reed was born on March 22, 1973, in Bristol, Pa. Her mother, the former Joann Tunis, was a pharmacist in addition to executive at the drug company Pfizer. Her father, William Reed, was a health insurance consultant.

Dr. Reed graduated through Pennsylvania State University in 1995 in addition to went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Ph.D. in immunology in addition to a degree in medicine. She specialized in anesthesia in addition to critical-care medicine.

She in addition to Dr. Noorchashm met as graduate students in addition to married in 2001. In 2011, both were offered teaching posts at the Harvard Medical School in addition to clinical positions at its affiliated hospitals — Dr. Noorchashm at Brigham in addition to Women’s in addition to Dr. Reed at Beth Israel Deaconess. She treated victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, as well as the surviving bomber.

Besides Dr. Noorchashm, Dr. Reed is actually survived by her parents; her daughters, Nadia in addition to Ava; her sons, Joseph, Joshua, Luke in addition to Ryan; in addition to seven siblings: Alison Perate, Andrea Kealy, Amber Trainer, Matthew Reed, Justin Reed, Daniel Trainer in addition to Sarah Trainer.

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Amy Reed, Doctor Who Fought a Risky Medical Procedure, Dies at 44

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