More than 800 women are taking legal action after the medical devices left some unable to walk or work
Hundreds of women are suing the NHS and makers of mesh vaginal implants for the severe pain caused by them.
The medical devices, used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence, often after childbirth, have reportedly left some unable to walk, work or have sex after cutting into the vagina. The claims allege that surgeons and manufacturers failed to warn them of the risks involved.
More than 92,000 women had vaginal mesh implants in England between April 2007 and March 2015, according to NHS data. Of them, around one in 11 had experienced problems, a BBC analysis found.
Now, more than 800 women have joined legal action against the NHS and mesh manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, which has paid millions of dollars to affected women in the United States. Its subsidiary Ethicon is “vigorously defending litigation”, saying it acted appropriately and its devices have helped millions of women.
One woman told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme the mesh had “cut its way through - like a cheese wire”. She said she gave up work as a childminder because the pain left her unable to look after the children, and had been admitted to hospital 53 times to try to end the pain. As surgeons were unable to remove the mesh fully due to its proximity to a nerve, she said she now lives in permanent discomfort.
Another woman said the severity of the pain left her contemplating suicide, but now lives with it for the sake of her children. She added her husband had “turned into my carer”. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) “sympathises” with the women and said it is committed to addressing their concerns. It added that, for the majority, the implants remained safe and effective.
“Our experience with product recalls and alerts about named surgeons is that there are often patients out there suffering in silence. I applaud these women for speaking so candidly about their symptoms and the impact on their lives. Hopefully, it will encourage anyone else experiencing pain to come forward and seek legal support.”
Linda Millband national lead lawyer of the clinical negligence team at Thompsons
In Scotland, more than 400 women are taking legal action and have raised concerns after an independent review, published in March and accepted by Holyrood, said implants should not be routinely offered and only feature as part of an “informed choice”.
There are currently 100 types of vaginal mesh implant available in the UK. None have been recalled.
Linda Millband, national lead lawyer of the clinical negligence team at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “No one should have to live with the kind of pain described by these women. It is imperative that their complaints about these vaginal mesh implants are investigated as a matter of urgency, with an independent review carried out to establish any long-term risks they pose.
“Presenting sufficient information to patients about the risks associated with medical procedures, devices or medication, is vital so that they can make informed decisions. The allegation that some of these women didn’t get that before receiving these implants is something else that needs to be investigated.
“While many women who have had these implants are seemingly trouble - and pain - free, we know there have been complaints of pain, similar to that described by women in this BBC report, by patients in the United States and Scotland. Our experience with product recalls and alerts about named surgeons is that there are often patients out there suffering in silence. I applaud these women for speaking so candidly about their symptoms and the impact on their lives. Hopefully, it will encourage anyone else experiencing pain to come forward and seek legal support.”
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