Horrified MPs today slammed vaginal mesh implants as they heard the harrowing stories of women left ‘seriously damaged’.
The implants, dubbed ‘barbaric, were branded the ‘biggest medical scandal’ since thalidomide during a lengthy debate in the House of Commons.
Outraged politicians relayed dozens of tales of mesh victims left debilitated by the controversial devices just days after a damning NHS audit into the devices.
Carol Monaghan, a Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow North West, asked why faulty cars could be recalled but mesh fitted into human bodies couldn’t.
Senior Tory MP Julian Lewis told MPs that thousands of women would have ‘turned down’ mesh if they saw this ‘ghastly catalogue’ of complications.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the Health select committee, declared many of the women fitted with mesh ‘are entitled to compensation’.
Outraged politicians relayed dozens of tales of mesh victims left debilitated by the controversial devices (pictured: a new material revealed by experts at Sheffield University, who said it would be better than the current one used)
Thousands of women have been maimed by mesh across the world and have been left on the brink of suicide, unable to work and reliant on wheelchairs.
Tireless fights by furious campaigners and ‘meshed up’ victims led to an internal investigation by the NHS. The results were published on Tuesday.
It revealed the risks of complications from mesh are around the 45 per cent mark – unlike Government assertions it is no more than three per cent.
However, while victims of mesh welcomed the damning decade-long review, Sling The Mesh stressed it ‘doesn’t show the true scale of the disaster’.
The 5,800-strong group have repeatedly called for a public inquiry and pushed for the two-and-a-half hour debate about vaginal mesh in the Commons today.
In the debate, Ms Monaghan told ministers that one consultant had told her trying to remove mesh was like ‘trying to remove warm chewing gum from someone’s hair’.
She said: ‘If they discovered this kind of serious fault in a car they’d have recalled them all and stopped making them, so why didn’t they do that with mesh?’
Ms Monaghan demanded a complete suspension of mesh implants, which are made of brittle plastic and can curl, twist and cut through tissue.
Senior Tory MP Julian Lewis (right) told MPs thousands of women would have ‘turned down’ mesh if they saw his ‘ghastly catalogue’ of complications. Tory MP Sarah Wollaston (left) declared many of the women fitted with mesh ‘are entitled to compensation’
WHAT DID THE AUDIT INTO VAGINAL MESH SHOW?
Thousands of women have been forced to suffer unbearable pain because of their controversial vaginal mesh implants, an audit confirmed earlier this week.
However, while campaigners welcomed the damning decade-long review, they stressed it ‘didn’t show the true scale of the disaster’.
Health officials urged the country’s top medics to respond to the NHS Digital report, which delved into data about mesh implants in England and revealed:
- The risks of complications from mesh are around the 45 per cent mark – unlike NHS assertions it is no more than three per cent
- Hundreds of women are undergoing surgery each year to have their vaginal mesh implants removed
- The risk of mesh for prolapse and incontinence are almost equal – despite health watchdogs recommending a ban on one
- The number of vaginal mesh operations for incontinence each year have halved since 2008 and have been slashed by 13 per cent for prolapse
Mr Lewis, who represents New Forest East in Hampshire, said: ‘I have a page here which lists some 50 different symptoms related to implant illness.’
He revealed how a constituent of his had said she could ‘no longer carry out basic tasks at home or do things with my children due to the pain’.
A woman, who wished to remain unnamed, told Mr Lewis: ‘The mesh implant I have had has, and is, continuing to destroy my life.’
Another constituent of his, known only as Helen, suffered terrible bowel problems, depression, loss of confidence and lack of self-esteem.
MPs were told Helen, who begged for her mesh to be removed, said: ‘I feel let down by professionals who were supposed to treat me to the best of their ability.
‘There’s been information about the adverse effects of mesh around for years and yet these doctors are still happily inserting them into thousands of women.’
NHS Digital data showed nearly 130,000 patients have undergone a mesh procedure for incontinence or prolapse in the past decade.
However, hundreds of women left with life-changing injuries are undergoing surgery each year to have their vaginal mesh implants removed.
The procedures to implant mesh are given for incontinence and prolapse, both of which are common medical issues after childbirth.
Kevin Hollinrake, Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, told of one constituent whose mesh pain was not believed and was instead referred to a psychiatrist.
Quoting her, he told the Commons: ‘Within a few days of surgery I had severe pain in my groin and bladder, I was referred back to York Hospital on many occasions.
‘The surgeon said he could find nothing wrong with me and recommended I saw a psychiatrist as he believed it was all in my head.’
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF VAGINAL MESH?
Mesh, introduced 20 years ago and dubbed ‘gold-standard’, was promoted as a quick, cheap alternative to complex surgery for incontinence and prolapse.
Because it did not require specialist training to implant, victims of the procedure have since begged for tougher regulations to conduct such surgery.
Vaginal mesh has been considered a high-risk device for nearly a decade in the US, with bodies accepting up to 40 per cent of women may experience injury.
Some studies, published in an array of scientific journals, have shown that pain, erosion and perforation from the surgery can strike up to 75 per cent of women.
The alarming evidence prompted officials in three US states to suspend the practice and saw them call for an urgent review into its safety.
Scottish officials asked for it to be suspended in Scotland in 2014 pending a similar review, but hundreds of women are still believed to be having the surgery.
Leading mesh manufacturer Johnson & Johnson was forced to pay out $57 million last September to a woman fitted with the implant.
Ella Ebaugh, 51, from Philadelphia, was awarded the eight-figure sum after a jury found the company to be negligent and its product defective.
‘Eventually I was given an MRI scan and the mesh was found sticking into my bladder, I was then operated on to partially remove the mesh.
‘After the operation the surgeon described the pain of the mesh sticking into me as being like barbed wire. Quite simply this operation has ruined my life.’
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Surgical Mesh demanded the audit, released yesterday, into mesh, in the hope of creating a ‘clearer’ picture of the scandal.
Owen Smith, Labour MP and chairman of the group, who welcomed the results of the investigation, also addressed his concerns over mesh in the Commons today.
He said there had been almost one million outpatient appointments linked to vaginal mesh, with costs to the NHS somewhere in the region of £250 million.
WHAT WAS THE THALIDOMIDE SCANDAL?
Thalidomide was the medication given to pregnant women to combat morning sickness between 1958 and 1961.
It was withdrawn after doctors noticed an increase in the number of deformed babies born to mothers who had been on the drug.
After a long battle, the families affected received total of £28 million in compensation, paid out by the drug manufacturer during the 1970s.
Mr Smith yesterday blasted the Government for repeatedly claiming that mesh was ‘safe’ and that just one to three per cent of women suffer complications.
Their own statistics showed around 40 per cent of women treated with mesh are subsequently undergoing outpatient treatment, he said then.
Emma Hardy, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, led calls in the Commons today to suspend the use of vaginal mesh.
Addressing the disaster, she said: ‘These women were injured, these women were ignored, these women are the victims of a scandal.’
Labour MP Rupa Huq, of Ealing Central and Acton, asked: ‘Would (Ms Hardy) not agree with me that this is really the biggest medical scandal since thalidomide?’
Ms Hardy replied that she ‘completely’ agreed and pointed to the figures earlier this week that showed the number of mesh procedures had halved in a decade.
She added: ‘This shows that doctors and patients are voting with their feet about mesh and telling the world that they do not want to use it.’
Ms Hardy urged health watchdog Nice to bring forward its guidelines for mesh in stress-related urinary incontinence to later this year.
She said: ‘I remain deeply concerned mesh has not yet been completely suspended and it remains possible for doctors to still use it
‘There is also still no physiotherapy universally available for all new mothers as standard, as there is in France, to stop these problems before they even arise.’
WHAT ARE VAGINAL MESH IMPLANTS? THE CONTROVERSIAL DEVICES THAT HAVE BEEN COMPARED TO THALIDOMIDE
WHAT ARE VAGINAL MESH IMPLANTS?
Vaginal mesh implants are devices used by surgeons to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women.
Usually made from synthetic polypropylene, a type of plastic, the implants are intended to repair damaged or weakened tissue in the vagina wall.
Other fabrics include polyester, human tissue and absorbable synthetic materials.
Some women report severe and constant abdominal and vaginal pain after the surgery. In some, the pain is so severe they are unable to have sex.
Infections, bleeding and even organ erosion has also been reported.
Vaginal mesh implants are devices used by surgeons to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MESH?
Mini-sling: This implant is embedded with a metallic inserter. It sits close to the mid-section of a woman’s urethra. The use of an inserter is thought to lower the risk of cutting during the procedure.
TVT sling: Such a sling is held in place by the patient’s body. It is inserted with a plastic tape by cutting the vagina and making two incisions in the abdomen. The mesh sits beneath the urethra.
TVTO sling: Inserted through the groin and sits under the urethra. This sling was intended to prevent bladder perforation.
TOT sling: Involves forming a ‘hammock’ of fibrous tissue in the urethra. Surgeons often claim this form of implant gives them the most control during implantation.
Kath Samson, a journalist, is the founder of Sling The Mesh
Ventral mesh rectopexy: Releases the rectum from the back of the vagina or bladder. A mesh is then fitted to the back of the rectum to prevent prolapse.
HOW MANY WOMEN SUFFER?
According to the NHS and MHRA, the risk of vaginal mesh pain after an implant is between one and three per cent.
But a study by Case Western Reserve University found that up to 42 per cent of patients experience complications.
Of which, 77 per cent report severe pain and 30 per cent claim to have a lost or reduced sex life.
Urinary infections have been reported in around 22 per cent of cases, while bladder perforation occurs in up to 31 per cent of incidences.
Critics of the implants say trials confirming their supposed safety have been small or conducted in animals, who are unable to describe pain or a loss of sex life.
Kath Samson, founder of the Sling The Mesh campaign, said surgeons often refuse to accept vaginal mesh implants are causing pain.
She warned that they are not obligated to report such complications anyway, and as a result, less than 40 per cent of surgeons do.