Untested and unsafe medical implants have caused women to suffer, causing many complications and chronic pain. Women fitted with contraceptive devices, mesh implants and breast implants, have come out in force against pharmaceutical companies by organising a class-action lawsuit against them. These companies have often marketed these devices with very little checks and approvals. At times, they are released onto the market without having been tested on anyone.
In many cases, women had their complaints brushed aside when raising alarm about their symptoms. When some women raised concerns about the unbearable pain they were suffering after having a vaginal mesh inserted against prolapse and incontinence, many were ignored or not taken seriously. The same story happened when women complained of pain and discomfort after receiving an Essure contraception devise.
The transvaginal mesh implant
More than 700 Australian women have launched a class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for pelvic mesh implants which have caused medical complications such as debilitating pain, recurring infections and the inability to have sex. Women can be left using walking aids or wheelchairs due to the immense pain. The transvaginal mesh implant was designed to treat incontinence or prolapse, which is often caused by childbirth. Since 2017, the Chronic Pelvic Pain Clinic at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney has seen 54 new patients with nerve pain after the surgery and an average of six new patients every week. Due to public outrage, the device was banned in November 2017. The women affected are currently awaiting a ruling from Justice Anna Katzmann of the Federal Court. The Senate has published a scathing report on this device with recommendations that can be read here.
The Essure Coil
The Essure Coil produced by Bayer is a contraceptive device that is inserted into a woman’s fallopian tube to stimulate scarring which is meant to prevent ova and sperm from meeting. This contraceptive device has caused tens of thousands of patients to suffer perforations, nickel poisoning, chronic pain, allergic reactions and immune-type reactions. Women are also suffering side effects such as severe menstrual bleeding, chronic fatigue, ovarian pain and loss of cognitive function. Women with the Essure Coil have a 10-fold higher risk of additional surgery, meaning for some the only way to safely remove the product is to conduct a hysterectomy. Bayer has decided to discontinue the distribution of the Essure Coil in Australia and the United States. Slater and Gordon are encouraging women who are affected to join their class-action lawsuit.
The textured breast implants
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has suspended eight types of unimplanted textured breast impacts following approximately 100 Australian cases of rare cancer, which includes four deaths. The TGA has advised against removing implants unless there are symptoms of swelling, pain and lumps near the breast or implant. Regulators are concerned with the implants being associated with BIA-ALCL cancer, a rare cancer of the immune system, which has 700 confirmed cases around the world and 23 deaths. Women who currently have the textured implants are advised to seek medical advice from their doctors.
In general, women are less likely to be taken seriously when reporting pain to medical professionals than men. They are less likely to be taken seriously in the emergency department or to be prescribed opioid pain medication. This is all due to the pain bias of some medical professionals. Women are likely to be labelled as ‘emotional’ or have their pain problems labelled as gynecological or psychiatric problems, whereas men are given tests to rule out physiological conditions.
Nicole Singh was a sufferer of chronic pelvic pain and was recently diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease after two years of searching. She writes, “While I often feel paralyzed by the choicelessness that comes with living with a chronic illness, I have learned to find power in my gut-instinct and seek answers with unwavering tenacity. I have learned that my body is the vessel that will steer me towards the professional and personal success I desire, and thus it is paramount that I fight for it.”
Take-home message? When there’s pain, never take ‘it’s nothing’ for an answer.