Today Minister for Health, Simon Harris, announced the suspension of the use of Transvaginal Mesh implants in Ireland. This is in response to the Mesh Survivors Ireland campaign and recent meeting with the Minister for Health, the Chief Medical Officer and Department of Health Officials. There has been growing pressure to follow suit of the UK, who announced a suspension of mesh earlier this month. In light of this, several Irish women have taken to local radio to talk about their experience with mesh and calling for immediate suspension. The scandal has been gaining more coverage and momentum since being featured on PrimeTime in January this year.
Transvaginal mesh is one of the most popular gynecological procedures carried out in Ireland. It is most commonly used for treating stress urinary incontinence and has been described to many as a “quick-fix” and a “gold standard device”. Women were not told that the device could result in chronic pain and many did not know that once the device is put in, it cannot be fully removed in this country. The majority of woman in Mesh Survivors Ireland say that they would not have opted for this procedure if they had been told of the life-altering risks associated with it. Some women are now confined to wheelchairs due to the crippling pain.
Mesh Survivors Ireland is a campaign group founded by Melanie Power of Power Solicitors in response to the endless calls from women who were suffering in silence as a result of this device. Their stories are harrowing and worst of all, many felt totally alone as they were told they were the “only one with complications”. Due to a lack of specialist care available for mesh complications in Ireland, ladies are travelling to the UK to have their problems diagnosed. Many were subjected to years of invasive testing and investigations to end up without diagnosis, with only pain relief as an option – pain relief that can be addictive, and can affect memory and your ability to function in daily life.
This suspension is recognition for those women who have to date been fighting for acknowledgement that transvaginal mesh for stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse is not the gold standard device that their doctors described. It is a device with life altering consequences including lifelong chronic pain caused by the mesh cutting through organs like the bladder or bowel for example. Mesh Survivors Ireland carried out a briefing of TDs in January on the medical scandal which many experts are comparing to the thallidomide crisis due to the extent of the injuries and the number effected.
Mesh Survivors Ireland Rally for an Independent Audit
We still do not know idea how many Irish women have been affected by this terrible device. A NHS audit, following 100,516 who had the procedure, paints a chilling picture. Consequently, in the nine years after their procedure, these women required 993,035 outpatient appointments. This is greater than you would expect among a group of relatively young women who had a “gold standard procedure”. Women also needed more and more appointments as time went on. This is the opposite of what you would expect with a successful surgery.
Professor Heneghan said: “These are the sort of outpatient treatment numbers one would expect to see among a cohort of patients with multiple co-morbidities, not that you’d see among the relatively young women who have usually been operated on with surgical mesh for urinary incontinence.”
Despite these worrying figures, mesh procedures remain the most popular in gynaecological wards until today’s suspension.
The women of Mesh Survivors Ireland, supported by Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly, have successfully rallied for a retrospective audit on the device, suspension of the device pending audit and access to healthcare for those suffering mesh complications. At present, we do not have the diagnostics or any clear pathway to deal with the complications.
To date Mesh Survivors Ireland have met with the Minister for Health, the medical devices regulator, and held protests at the gate of Leinster House. The question remains as to why it has taken Irish women to talk out in the media about their intimate issues and a solicitor from Limerick to form a campaign, in order for the Department of Health to recognise that a device used in HSE hospitals is causing severe complications.
Lack of Help for Women in Need
Melanie has spoken with over 400 hundred women troubled by this device. Many complain that doctors are unable to diagnose their problems and are often told their problems are not mesh-related. These women are in severe pain and are not given solutions. In some cases, women have been told that the whole device has been removed, only to suffer ongoing issues. Some of these women traveled to the UK for a second opinion in one of the 19 mesh complications centres there only to be told that the device is still present. Mesh is a permanent device designed to integrate with the body. UK removal surgeons explain that partial removals make full removal of the device extremely difficult.
Why Did a Solicitor Start A Campaign?
One Saturday morning Melanie received a call from a very distressed lady. She explained how her marriage had broken up. She had been suffering with pain for years since the mesh was put in. She was given every investigation possible in Ireland and was told there was no medical cause for her pain and her issues were not mesh-related. She was told it was psychological. This put a huge strain on her family life as now, her family felt that she was imagining the pain. She lost her job, her relationship and felt abandoned by the health system. Alone, isolated and in pain, she explained that she made plans to end her life that week. By chance, she was sent an article written by Michelle Hennessy at Journal.ie on transvaginal mesh. Immediately she related to the article and no longer felt so alone. This lady has since traveled to the UK where she has undergone full removal surgery. This confirmed that the pain she was suffering was real as she had a chronic inflammatory reaction to the mesh. Following this phone-call, Melanie took the action to start Mesh Survivors Ireland to create a support network for those who have been left without the support they so desperately need for years.
If you or a loved one have concerns about the mesh implant, legal advice and guidance is available from the team at Power Solicitors. Melanie Power has unparalleled experience in the area of medical negligence and mesh and welcomes your call. Please contact Melanie directly by email: [email protected], or phone: 061-513055