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A Spike in Lawsuits Against NHS for Pelvic Mesh Implant Complications

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Between April 2007 and March 2015, NHS data reveals that more than 92,000 women have had vaginal mesh implant surgeries to correct issues with urinary incontinence and prolapse. Recent reports show that despite the popularity of the procedure as a less invasive alternative to other surgical solutions, one in eleven patients experience complications after surgery. More than 800 women have now joined together to take legal action against the NHS and the mesh implant manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Ethicon, to receive compensation due to them for ongoing problems experienced after the procedure.

The history of vaginal mesh implants is spotted at best, beginning with the medical device entering the market and quickly becoming the go-to course of treatment for common issues faced by women, especially after giving birth. Ethicon, a leading manufacturer of mesh implants in the UK, is fighting off litigation, stating that the surgeries with its mesh implants have helped improve the lives of millions of women over the years. While many patients have a positive experience with the procedure and see noticeable improvements relating to incontinence and prolapse, the risk of complications is still very much a reality for women.

Even though the use of vaginal mesh implants has consistently increased over the years, little research was conducted on the potential problems that could arise post-procedure before implants were seen as the first line of defense for female patients. Of the one in eleven women experiencing complications, many sight ongoing, debilitating pain, an inability to have intercourse or walk comfortably, and infections due to the mesh cutting through the flesh. These complex medical issues that come about after mesh implant surgery are the leading reason for an increase in the number of women suing the NHS, as they claim no one informed them of the risks they faced in undergoing mesh implant surgery.

Facing Permanent Damage

Although many women have successful mesh implant surgery, the patients who suffer the consequences of failed procedures often face damage that cannot be reversed. One of the individuals bringing suit against the NHS and mesh implant manufacturers shared that she was forced to give up her career due to the constant pain she endured after the mesh implant cut its way through her body. Having been admitted to the hospital more than 50 times for pain remedies, doctors have been unable to remove the implant because of its location near a nerve. She is now forced to live with the constant pain of the mesh implant and is suing along with hundreds of others for this reason.

A representative from a leading medical malpractice firm shared that part of the issue with mesh implant surgeries is the overarching medical device regulation system in place with NHS currently. Surgeons are quick to offer mesh implant procedures to help ease the symptoms of incontinence and prolapse in women, but there are other viable treatment options that may prove less risky to the patient and her well-being. Mesh implants are coming under fire given the stark uptick in reported complications, and while they are successful in treating a large number of patients, the risks associated with them must be fully disclosed to women before a procedure is done.

Tough Choices for NHS

In recent months, several medical providers have come together to ask for a ban on vaginal mesh implants throughout the NHS, a request that is being met with some trepidation. A blanket ban on the medical device takes away the choice patients have in the care and course of treatment they receive, and it ignores the successful instances of mesh implant surgery for hundreds of thousands of women. Instead of a widespread stop in utilising mesh implant surgery as the go-to recourse for incontinence and prolapse in women, some experts suggest creating an environment where patients are given more of a choice in permanent treatment options. Additionally, for women who opt for the mesh implant surgery to help reduce the severity of their symptoms, providers must have a more in-depth discussion about the potential for permanent damage and ongoing pain that could result from the procedure.

The NHS and providers in the UK have a tough road ahead as it relates to vaginal mesh implants, but the current legal battle against the healthcare system and the manufacturers of implants remains a heated topic today. As more women come forward with their experiences after mesh implant surgery, it may be seen that devising a new way of treating incontinence and prolapse is a necessary next step.