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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Legal Action Launched For Vaginal Mesh Sufferers

An implant for women with incontinence after childbirth is the subject of legal action claiming it has left some in chronic pain.

Julie Gilsenan says her life changed forever after she had the procedure

By Charlotte Lomas, Sky News Correspondent

Up to 2,000 women who say they suffered complications from vaginal mesh implants are planning to take group legal action against the manufacturers.

The TVT mesh is often prescribed to women who experience incontinence after childbirth and involves inserting a plastic mesh into the vagina to support the bladder.

While the operation can be a success, it has left some women in chronic pain, unable to walk, work or have sexual intercourse.

Julie Gilsenan, a 41 year-old paramedic, had the operation in February after being told it was the best way to cure her mild incontinence.

The mother of five said she now struggles to walk very far and has to take five types of medication every day to relieve her constant pain.

"The operation was described as routine, lasted 20 minutes and it has ruined my life," she said.

"Immediately afterwards I started to get immense sharp glass-like pain on one side of my groin.

"It started to develop into pain across my pelvis, backache, and it's so draining.

"It doesn't matter how much medication I take the pain is still there.

"It's like Russian roulette.

"Anyone who knew me would tell you that before the surgery I was always on the go, I never sat still and I was a happy person.

"This mesh operation has changed everything for me."

The procedure has also meant Ms Gilsenan must self-catheterise to empty her bladder, something which means she can no longer work as a paramedic on the front line.

She said: "It's not only my home life but it's the financial impact too.

"I was told this was the best thing for me, I trusted the advice given to me.

"If I'd have known the extent it would change my life, that I couldn't work and do the things I used to do with my family, there is absolutely no way I would have agreed to have the surgery."

The mesh itself is usually made out of synthetic polypropylene and used to treat incontinence or prolapse, conditions that have often, but not always, been caused by childbirth.

Between 2006 and 2016, more than 92,000 women in England were treated with a polypropylene surgical material that is either inserted as a mesh patch or a vaginal tape, known as TVT, TVTO and TOT.

Up to 2000 women are planning to take legal action against manufacturers of the mesh, arguing that it is not fit for purpose.

David Golten, partner at Wedlake Bell LLP, is one of those representing the women.

He said: "If all of the allegations are proved then it could well be the biggest health scandal of our time, given the number of women involved and the fact that, if the allegations are proved, it would suggest that people knew that this device was going wrong and continued to use it and continued to make it."

One of the biggest makers of mesh implants is US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

In response to litigation its subsidiary, Ethicon said: "Ethicon will vigorously defend itself in lawsuits concerning the use of our pelvic mesh products.

"The evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of its pelvic mesh products."

Two years after Sky News first reported the issue, nearly 100 women will attend a summit in Parliament on Tuesday hosted by Pontypridd MP Owen Smith.

They are calling on the government to suspend the mesh procedure in England, pending further research.

Speaking ahead of the lobby, Owen Smith said: "In seven years of being an MP, this is one of the worst medical issues I have come across.

"That's why I am hosting this summit in Parliament to hear from women and experts about the risks involved with mesh surgery.

"It is my hope that the Government will take action to address this growing issue and immediately review Mesh treatment."

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