Scottish Parliament held a committee hearing this week on the plastic mesh used on women to correct pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
Natural vs. Plastic
For some 50 years, surgeons used the burch colposuspension method or else a woman’s own or cadaver tissue (in a fascia sling) when kegel exercises or other natural methods to correct problems such as POP or SUI didn’t work. Then in the late 1990s, medical device makers – such as Johnson & Johnson, Bard, American Medical Systems (AMS) and others – got the bright idea of implanting plastic polypropylene mesh into women’s bodies. The companies began using salesmen (many of whom were not even medical doctors) to train uro gynecologists and other women’s doctors who had not previously done surgery, into performing their individual company’s own methods to insert different products made of plastic mesh. Business was good. Hundreds of thousands of women have now been implanted with plastic mesh.
The Pitch for Plastic
On the plus side, the plastic mesh was easier to insert and was less invasive. It promised faster recovery times (which is undoubtedly true when the mesh works as intended), and more doctors were able to perform the new fix for the old women’s problems. The plastic mesh also seemed to work as effectively as the traditional burch colposuspension method (simple suturing, or as well as fascia slings (human tissue) in fixing prolapse or stress urinary incontinence.
The Problem with Plastic
On the down side, when the body’s inflammatory response to any foreign object is greater than expected, or the woman’s body rejects the plastic altogether, it has proved very difficult, and often impossible, to remove the mesh entirely. Consequently, the women whom the product failed would not only once again suffer from their original problem, (because the mesh had to be removed, they were back to square one), but they could now suffer a lifetime of pain due to nerve damage from the mesh having eroded into their vagina and other living tissues, or they could suffer a lifetime of pain from having mesh particles forever trapped deep in their own human tissue inside them.
Elaine Holmes Testifies
The first petitioner, Elaine Holmes – a mesh victim herself – testified that a Johnson & Johnson mesh product – the TVT-O – had been found defective in a United States courtroom (Batiste vs. Johnson & Johnson, a case brought by attorneys from Matthews & Associates. Ms. Holmes said that if the plastic mesh is defective in the United States, then it’s defective in Scotland. sociates and Freese & Goss). She also pointed out that Ethicon’s own web site (a division of Johnson & Johnson) warns that plastic polypropylene mesh should not be implanted in a non sterile environment, and that the vagina is a clean-contaminated field and therefore it is contraindicated to implant plastic in the vagina.
Behind Ms. Holmes, more than a dozen women sat listening, sometimes dabbing their eyes or covering their faces as their sister-in-arms testified that, among other issues, there was a very large problem with a lack of reporting of adverse events. Ms. Holmes pointed out that doctors were not required to report them and therefore the vast majority did not report them. Many of the women had entered the committee room using canes or walking very slowly to seats positioned behind Elaine Holmes, fellow petitioner Olive McIlroy and the newspaper journalist Marion Scott.
Marion Scott of the Sunday Mail Testifies
Sunday Mail reported Marion Scott testified that in her nearly 40 years in journalism, she had “never come across such a horrendous scandal. These women’s lives have been utterly decimated by what’s happened to them. The effects (are) not just on the women themselves but on their families. The sadness is these women feel very, very let down by the very people who were supposed to be helping them. I’ve talked to hundreds of women. The vast majority were never properly told exactly what this device would do. They were all just basically given a pat on the head. They weren’t told what the side effects could possibly be. They weren’t given alternatives. And that’s shameful.”
At one point, Ms. Scott held up a plastic lock tie such as that used to bind bales of newspapers and said that the same plastic used in those ties is used in women, except that the plastic mesh is webbed and human tissue grows into it.
U.S. Law Firms will try Several More Plastic Mesh Cases
Matthews & Associates, along with Freese & Goss, is set to try another Transvaginal Mesh case in Denver this August – Salazar v. Boston Scientific. Together, the firms beat Johnson & Johnson in Dallas with a $1.2 million jury verdict (mentioned in the Scottish Parliament testimony above) over a defense pick in April, in the first trial won for plaintiffs over a TVM sling used for stress urinary incontinence.
The FDA’s stance on slings used for stress urinary incontinence may make those cases appear more difficult to some law firms, but these two law firms are not deterred. They have done the discovery and the research, and they know how to win both regular mesh (for POP) and sling (for SUI) cases in court.
The firms are also preparing for several Bard trials this fall, and they will also try several more mesh cases against Johnson & Johnson in the next six months. As leaders in this litigation, they are ready to take on any number of transvaginal mesh cases.
Contact an Experienced Mesh Attorney
If you or someone you love has been hurt by transvaginal mesh used in pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence surgery, contact an experienced transvaginal mesh attorney today. Call us toll free at 888-520-5202 or email us for a free legal consultation.
We work on a contingency fee basis, so our clients never bear any out-of-pocket expense.