The Walking Wounded calls for a rethink of what we most value

By Paul Komesaroff, Monash University; Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney, and Wendy Lipworth, University of Sydney

Starting with Karl Marx, many thinkers have pointed out that the creative potential of the capitalist economic system comes at a cost – the lack of inherent ethical scruples to limit the inexorable logic of profit and growth.

ABC TV’s Four Corners’ exposé of the scandal about a defective medical hip replacement device known as “ASR” is a case in point. The Walking Wounded examines the case of a surgical treatment widely used to treat painful arthritic conditions, mainly in elderly people.

Designed, manufactured and marketed by DePuy (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest medical device company), nearly 100,000 people received the implants over a six-year period. More than 5,000 of them were from Australia.

Originally launched in 2003, defects were soon apparent to many of the surgeons using the device. Some called for its withdrawal. But sales continued until 2009, and it was not until a year later that the company announced a worldwide recall. Continue reading