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February 19th 2015

The AAGL and Morcellators

The AAGL–formerly known as American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists–faces increased public attention because of the controversy over a device called the power morcellator. The Food and Drug Administration says the tool can spread hidden cancer, but AAGL has been a staunch defender of the device. AAGL, which trains doctors in tiny-incision surgeries, has historically had corporate partnerships. But it has also adopted new conflict-of-interest policies as the medical field has faced calls for more transparency. These policies have caused tension in the group’s leadership, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Q: What is AAGL?

A: The AAGL is a medical society that promotes minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Established in 1971, it has 7,500 members worldwide. It also issues position papers on the safety and effectiveness of procedures and techniques. The AAGL helps fund, with assistance from corporate grants, educational activities and fellowships in minimally invasive gynecology, according to its website.

Q: What kind of influence do medical societies have?

A: Doctors rely on medical societies like the AAGL to provide unbiased advice on crucial issues affecting medicine–from patient safety to training guidelines. Insurers closely read the groups’ guidelines when deciding which procedures to cover. The public looks to medical societies to provide disinterested and unbiased advice.

Q: What is the AAGL’s position on morcellation?

A: The AAGL has remained a vocal defender of the morcellator, which is used to cut up uterine fibroids or the uterus itself so the tissue can be removed through small incisions in minimally invasive procedures. The association today says morcellation with “appropriate informed consent should remain available to appropriately screened, low risk women.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned doctors against using the device, saying the tool risks spreading a hidden cancer in some women.

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