Johnson's Baby Powder
A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. Reuters/Mike Segar

Before the landmark Missouri state jury award of $72 million (AUD$100 million) to Alabama resident Jacqueline Fox, there was another ovarian cancer victim who had been offered by Johnson & Johnson a six-digit figure to settle her case out of court. However, the earlier victim, Deana Berg, turned down the offer.

She rejected the $1.3 million offer of Johnson & Johnson in 2006 because Berg did not want to sign a confidentiality clause. Without that restriction, the victim is free to share with the world how using Johnson’s baby powder for feminine hygiene for years, like what Fox did, have almost cost her life.

And she just did that in an exclusive by The New York Post wherein she narrated her journey with the cosmetic product. Now 58, the cancer survivor and physician’s assistant from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, started to use the powder at 18 to dust daily her perineum area. She used also the baby powder and Shower to Shower which were specifically marketed as feminine hygiene products, with the advert’s tagline stating: “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.”

After 31 years of doing that, while the powder kept the odor away, it did not keep the doctor away because at age 49 in fall of 2006, Berg noticed spotting between her period which she initially dismissed as part of her approaching menopause. However, the physician’s assistant in her prompted Berg to seek a second opinion from a gynaecologist after her family doctor said nothing was wrong with her.

The ultrasound at Sanford Medical Center said she has haemorrhagic ovary, which led her to have the two ovaries removed since she already had two grown up daughters and didn’t need that part of her reproductive system. Despite the removal of her ovaries, results of a January 2007 biopsy stated she had stage 3 ovarian cancer that had spread to some of Berg’s lymph nodes.

With a life expectancy of less than five years, the mother of two underwent full hysterectomy and was preparing for chemotherapy when she read literature from her cancer doctor that said talc powder was cited as a likely cause of ovarian cancer, citing studies going back to the 1980s.

She filed a lawsuit in October 2013 and the federal jury declared the baby powder were a factor that caused her cancer. Although the jury did not award her damage, Johnson’s still offered her some compensation. Her lawyer compared Berg to first smokers who filed a lawsuit against tobacco companies after they developed lung cancer.

She points out that “The pioneers didn’t receive compensation, but the dangers and the conspiracy were finally exposed.” The $1.3 million offered Berg to shut up appears peanuts compared to the jury award of $72 million to the family of Fox. Some people find the amount excessive. Berg disagrees, asking “How can you put a value on life?”