Health crusade gains strength

By Poppy Wortman

Fellow sufferers join Kiwi woman campaigning against surgical mesh makers, which she says caused her misery

Carmel Berry has joined a class action against 5 US manufacturers. Photo / HOS
Carmel Berry has joined a class action against 5 US manufacturers. Photo / HOS

One Kiwi woman's crusade against surgical mesh manufacturers has prompted others to join her online support group and share their stories.

Carmel Berry, from Auckland, has joined a class action against five manufacturers in the United States, after suffering complications from polypropylene mesh implanted during surgery for a prolapsed uterus in 2004.

"ACC declined my claims, so this is an opportunity for me to get compensation and hopefully make the manufacturers realise that they've been negligent with their product," she said.

Last year, the Herald on Sunday revealed that hundreds of patients had suffered complications after having surgical mesh inserted.

Made from pig collagen or polypropylene, the mesh is used in hernia, prolapsed pelvic organs and incontinence operations.

Berry's lawyer, Rebecca Gilsenan, said the class action gave Australians and New Zealanders their first chance to have their voices heard.

"Women are continuing to come forward, and we are in the first stage of sorting through whether they have eligible products or not," she said.

"It goes to show there are a lot of women who have been implanted with this product suffering terrible injuries and not knowing how widespread the problem is."

Filing claims will be completed by the end of this week.

Gilsenan said a mistrial declared on July 10 in the United States as a result of a witness' testimony about marketing claims was an inconvenience but not a problem for the substance of the case.

Ethicon - a Johnson & Johnson company and one of the manufacturers of the mesh - issued a statement saying: "Ethicon is committed to advancing the standard of care for women's health. For more than a decade, Ethicon have invested in the research, development and clinical study of products to treat a wide range of pelvic disorders."

Ethicon spokeswoman Meshlin Khouri said patient safety was the first priority and the company encouraged all patients with questions about their procedures to contact their surgeon.

Berry said her main aim was to raise awareness about the mesh and connect people.

"For so long my doctor told me I was the only person to ever have this problem, that it's so rare, that I was one of those unfortunate, unlucky ones. Yet I now have a support group of 58 women in it that have made contact with me."

Berry said hits on her meshdownunder website had gone "ballistic" and the Facebook page had received 8,000 more views.

- Herald on Sunday

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