Legal hope for prolapse patients

By Chloe Johnson

Sufferers of mesh-implant injuries may now have a claim after a US court found a medical firm at fault

Jacqui Scott says she is suffering from complications from the mesh and is outraged her doctors used the controversial product. Photo / John Cowpland
Jacqui Scott says she is suffering from complications from the mesh and is outraged her doctors used the controversial product. Photo / John Cowpland

A multinational medical firm has been found guilty of failing to tell patients the risks involved in having its surgical mesh implanted, giving New Zealand sufferers hope of compensation.

A jury at the Atlantic City Superior Court in the United States last month found the Johnson & Johnson product itself was not defective, but awarded Linda Gross US$3.35 million in compensation and US$7.76m punitive damages.

While investigating the use of surgical mesh in this country, the Herald on Sunday has spoken to many New Zealanders who say they have suffered serious internal injuries or discomfort after having various meshes inserted during surgery, usually for vaginal prolapse or hernias.

One patient, 61-year-old Jacqui Scott, says she is suffering from complications from the mesh and is outraged her doctors used the controversial product.

In 2006, the Napier woman had Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon Gynecare Prolift surgical mesh implanted in her body to fix a vaginal prolapse.

Scott, of Napier, claimed she was a "guinea pig" and not warned of the risks, including mesh erosion and perforated organs.

A year after surgery she had severe back pain, shingles, stomach cramps and toilet difficulties. "I had a pricking sensation when sitting down and numbness in the leg and bottom. It was really nasty."

The grandmother is one of hundreds of New Zealanders with complications from mesh products.

Since 2008, ACC has received more than 670 claims relating to surgical mesh. Of those, 432 were accepted and 14 are still being investigated. More than $3.2m has been paid in compensation, treatment and rehabilitation.

In a statement to the Herald on Sunday, Johnson & Johnson said it had discontinued some mesh products last year, including Prolift.

"The decision was not related to the safety or efficacy of these products and was not a product recall. It is not necessary for women who have received one of these products to take any action."

Wellington lawyer John Millar said there were at least 10 people taking legal action after ACC declined their claims.

- Herald on Sunday

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