Mesh Implants – A New Public Health Scandal?
A seemingly straightforward ‘fix’ for the common health complaints affecting women following childbirth has become a source of continued poor health for many of the 20,000 Scottish women who have undergone the procedure. A trans-vaginal mesh, made from a type of plastic called polypropylene, has been implanted in women who complain of stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. However, rather than simply alleviating symptoms, has led to more severe symptoms of chronic pain in a number of the women who opted to undergo the procedure.
In the USA, the mesh has been considered high-risk since 2008 and investigation by the United States Food and Drug Administration has found that, despite the mesh being effective in other parts of the body; it is less compatible with use in the abdomen and is almost impossible to remove due to the method in which it fuses to tissue. The risk becomes apparent when reviewing figures, which indicate that, of those affected south of the border, only one in fifteen have had the material removed by NHS England and Wales.
What is particularly worrying about the surgical mesh is the life-changing nature of symptoms that sufferers display. Some women have been confined to wheelchair use due to nerve damage and others have been told by clinicians that they can no longer become intimate with their partners. This has understandably led to a psychological strain on individuals trying to adjust, with many having to adapt to a life of managing their condition with strong pain relief and a variety of other drugs.
Despite a recommendation from the Health Secretary to suspend use of the mesh in 2014, more than 400 women have undergone the surgery since then and in the wake of this public health scandal, several women have begun to pursue compensation claims against NHS Scotland. Because of the range of issues that have arisen with using surgical mesh, this significant medical claim could result in billions of pounds of compensation being awarded to the numerous victims. Further claims have been made against the device manufacturer, who has already paid over $57 million in compensation to a victim in the USA, who successfully argued that the research and development of the material was inadequate. The manufacturer faces 42,000 similar claims in the United States alone.
There are many circumstances under which women who have undergone the surgery may be entitled to compensation. These includes those who were never made aware of the complications of the mesh, those who were unaware that the procedure is virtually irreversible and those who have required repeated surgeries to correct complications. Over 400 victims are thought to have had their claims heard in the Scottish Courts in 2016 and in circumstances such as these; the laws governing medical negligence in Scotland are intended to provide a voice to those who have been adversely affected.
This blog post was written by Catherine Black, LLB (Hons), Dip LP.View all →