Women in the United Kingdom and other areas all over Europe have good reason to be concerned about a pair of purchases they have made. When word got out about a French woman who died due to implications caused by her faulty breast implants, all eyes turned to the makers of the implants in question, Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), and its founder Jean-Claude Mas.
It was revealed that in 2001, PIP began using low-quality silicone in their breast implants—the kind not to be used in prostheses, but rather that used in an industrial setting or to stuff mattress. And what was cheaper for the company was also cheaper for the consumer, propelling PIP to the highest ranks of implant providers. Before long, women began complaining of pain at the site of the implants, swelling, and in severe cases, rupturing—bringing a host of additional problems that involve silicone spilling into the body.
Mas, meanwhile, has defended the quality of his company’s products and has denied that any harm can come from them, despite the French government’s warnings to the contrary and urging that those with the PIP implants get them removed. And it is not just an issue left to the French. Health agencies in the United Kingdom are equally in a tizzy over finding out who is responsible for this problem and what to do about it.
It is estimated that 40,000 British women are currently walking around with the PIP implants, an issue they liken to having “ticking time-bombs” in their chest. Andrew Lansley, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health, called upon private sector clinics, like The Harley Medical Group (who provided 13,900 British women with PIP implants between September 2001 and March 2010), to handle the costs of and administer the proper medical procedures for safely removing the implants.
The Harley Medical Group responded, claiming that they have neither the finances nor the necessary means of handling an operation that large of a scale—firing back that it is, instead, the job of the National Health Service. “This is a massive problem, created by the government’s agency, and they must accept moral responsibility,” explained Mel Braham, chairman of the Harley Medical Group to the BBC, “and they must do something for patients, because at the moment they are all very, very worried and panicked.”
What is clearly at fault is the UK’s own Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which has been accused of focusing the bulk of their resources on pharmaceutical regulation and less on medical devices like the silicone prostheses. Brian Tuft, a professor of patient safety, complained to MHRA officials that their CE marking system was “a smokes-screen for faulty and dangerous devices.” According to the agency’s spokesperson, working with so few employees and the huge quantity of medical devices currently on the market, the blame cannot be solely placed on them.
While the multiple agencies pass off accountability one to the next, the women at the center of this battle refuse to be ignored. Groups of women give a sense of urgency to the problem by protesting outside multiple private health clinics in the country. Gemma Pepper, a 29-year-old protester partaking in a recent march in London, expressed hope for both her future and the future of other women like her: “I’m feeling a lot better now that I know we can fight back after meeting these amazing ladies.”
To urge the UK government to do more to help the patients with these breast implants, please sign the petition here.
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