Are body part warranties in our future?Posted: Updated:
Just about everything you buy comes with a warranty, including appliances and electronics.
But what about the things you buy for your body like a hip or knee replacement?
Now there are efforts being made to protect you after surgery.
When a car breaks or a computer fails the manufacturer is typically liable under the product warranty. But when Diana Boernstein's newly implanted hip gave out she had no such written assurance.
"It was constantly painful, sitting, standing or lying," Boernstein said.
Boernstein is one of more than 1 million people who receive hip and knee implants each year.
Yet, of the major implant manufacturers only one offers any sort of warranty, and only on a partial knee implant.
"We think that knee and hip replacements need warranties because it is a critical product that people buy," said Lisa McGiffert director of Consumer Union's Safe Patient Project.
The non-profit Consumers Union wants manufacturers to provide a 20-year warranty, entitling patients to have defective devices replaced at no cost.
"The people who get them are younger and the older people who get them are more active, and so we think it's important for patients to know how long this is going to last," McGiffert said.
According to Consumers Union, about 18 percent of hip and 8 percent of knee replacements require surgical revisions to fix defects, costing patients and insurers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
But orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mathias Bostrom of the Hospital for Special Surgery said you can't equate a dishwasher to a hip implant.
"As much as I want to hold companies responsible, I think it's much more complicated than another consumer good that we expect warranties from," Dr. Bostrom said. "You're putting the implant in a patient. Some patients are very compliant and actually follow the surgeon's instructions and sometimes they actually don't."
Bostrom said a hip or knee implant failure could be the result of any number of things - not just a faulty device.
"The most important is the surgeon, who is putting it in," Bostrom said.
Still, consumer advocates say patients have a right to know how long manufacturers are willing to stand by their products.
"Generally, products in this country come with warranties," McGiffert said.
The trade association representing the manufacturers say there are a number of complexities that make it very difficult to predict the expected life span of an implant or any individual patient.
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