Scotland’s Transvaginal Mesh Campaign Gains Steam

Jane Akre
October 31, 2013
Marion Scott, reporter Scotland's Sunday Mail

Marion Scott, reporter Scotland's Sunday Mail

Scotland is taking some major steps that will allow women injured by transvaginal mesh to sue the manufacturers. The Scottish Parliament set up a transvaginal mesh working group last May and that country’s health minister has ordered the National Health Service to warn woman about transvaginal mesh surgery.

Marion Scott’s series of reports in the Sunday Mail (here) about the “horrific complications” suffered by hundreds of patients, fueled the warning.

Marion Scott continues here reporting for MND.

scotland daily mail oct 227 2013

Scotland’s Mesh Campaign Gains Steam by Marion Scott

The mesh campaign in Scotland has taken a dramatic new turn as lawyers prepare to launch compensation claims.

Leading medical negligence lawyer Cameron Fyfe has revealed that he believes every woman in Scotland who has been given a transvaginal mesh implant can sue the National Health Service and manufacturers.

Cameron Fyfe, solicitor

Cameron Fyfe, solicitor, image Herald Scotland

He intends using a law created four years ago to compensate building and engineering workers exposed to asbestos, even if they are not showing signs of lung disease, in a unique action to seek compensation for transvaginal mesh patients.

Fyfe, of law firm Drummond Miller, who represents hundreds of mesh victims across Scotland, said:

There is now so much evidence to show the devastating toll mesh has taken on thousands of women across the world, every woman who has undergone this procedure can potentially take legal action against the NHS as well as manufacturers.

“Medical experts say for some women it can take years for those side effects to develop.

“We’ve seen clients with appalling injuries caused by mesh, including perforated organs and crippling nerve pain.

“I have medical opinion that once it is implanted, mesh cannot easily be removed without causing further physical damage, and that it can take years for those adverse conditions to become evident.

“The very fact that every woman who has had a mesh implant will be distressed and anxious that those same injuries may happen to them, means they have a claim”

The Scottish government changed the law to bring in the Damages Asbestos-related Conditions Scotland Act 2009 to allow thousands of shipyard and engineering workers exposed to asbestos seek compensation even if they were not showing any signs of related illnesses because of the length of time it can take for symptoms to emerge.

Major insurance firms, unhappy at the prospect of having to pay out claims totaling millions of pounds, attempted to challenge the law in the UK’s Supreme Court two years ago, but they were unsuccessful.

Cameron Fyfe said:

“In light of what we now know, Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil needs to hold emergency talks with officials and stop mesh procedures.

“The NHS is facing one of the biggest medical disasters we have ever seen.

“I’m advised alternative procedures are available with the same success and failure rate as mesh, but with none of the devastating side effects we have seen in victims.

“For every one alternative operation , doctors could do six mesh procedures which is why mesh has become the operation of choice within the NHS.”

Mesh victim Elaine Holmes, 49, from Newton Mearns, Glasgow, said:

“This is the single biggest turning point in our campaign.

“We know hundreds of women across Scotland have been left with horrific complications and injuries because of mesh, but many more may not be aware they could have a ticking time bomb inside them.

“The only way forward for the NHS is to stop using mesh for transvaginal procedures or they could very well face legal claims costing many millions of pounds.

“The best medical and legal experts in the world are now sounding the alarm bells on these products, but women are still receiving mesh implants every single day.”

Fellow campaigner Olive McIlroy, 57, from Renfrewshire, said:

If a car manufacturer discovers a design fault, they stop the conveyor belt and instigate a recall.

“Doctors and politicians are not dealing with cars, it’s human lives.

“They have known for years that mesh was devastating lives, now they will be held accountable for not taking the appropriate action to protect patients.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Neil Findlay said:

Neil Findlay

Neil Findlay, Health Min. Scotland

”The devastating effects seen around the world as well as here in Scotland clearly show something is very wrong.

“Alex Neil has already accepted there are problems, but instead of protecting patients by withdrawing the product until a full inquiry is undertaken he is more concerned about what mesh manufacturers may do.

“This is now a global scandal, and Alex Neil has the legislative powers to protect people in Scotland.

“I’m determined to get to the bottom of why he is not doing so.”

Campaigners have scored significant success with Scotland’s Health Secretary already agreeing to have consent forms re-written so women are given all the facts before they undergo implant surgery in the future.

Senior clinicians in Scotland are expected to submit the new consent forms, which will give a wider ranging list of complications and more facts, before the end of next month.

The UK’s medical watchdog has also confirmed that Scotland’s Health Secretary has the legislative power to develop a Scottish implant register and compel clinicians to report all adverse conditions.

Despite global reporting of mesh complications, up until a few weeks ago in Scotland only two clinicians had taken steps to report adverse conditions.

Campaigner Elaine Holmes said:

“Until reporting of adverse conditions becomes mandatory for clinicians, we will never get the full picture of just how many women have been affected.

“All the figures and studies that have been used to support the contention that mesh is effective are not worth the paper they are written on because the current data is flawed and incomplete.

“Scotland has the legislative powers to lead the way and give patients far greater protection than they currently have, and that is what our campaign is all about."

Campaigners say the NHS should take steps to sue manufacturers as the cost of compensation claims and treatment for victims will run into millions of pounds.

A Scottish Government spokesman said:

“Scotland’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer is working closely with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to help resolve issues around surgical mesh, and is meeting with clinicians from across Scotland to discuss the way forward."

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