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Australian women win landmark surgical mesh case

Australian women win landmark surgical mesh case

The case was launched on behalf of women who had pelvic mesh and tape products implanted to treat common complications after childbirth

Australian women win landmark surgical mesh case

Surgical mesh implants have been widely used as a simple, less invasive alternative to traditional surgical approaches for treating urinary incontinence and prolapse, conditions that can commonly occur after childbirth. 

However, in recent years, women around the world began experiencing severe complications, including chronic pain, mesh cutting through tissue into the vagina and being left unable to walk or have sex.

The mesh eroded internally in many cases, causing infections, multiple complications, and is near impossible to completely remove.

The federal court heard from the three women who led the action – Kathryn Gill, Diane Dawson and Ann Sanders – respectively described their pain as “so bad she struggles to breathe”, “excruciating”, and like “there was a blade in her vagina”.

Following testing in Australia, on humans, the companies owned by Johnson & Johnson were accused of launching a “tidal wave” of aggressive promotion at doctors, marketing the devices as cheap, simple to insert, and a relatively risk-free way to boost profits.

The plaintiffs alleged the products potential dangers were downplayed or ignored, and when patients complained of pain, they were frequently disbelieved. 

The seven-year Australian class action against companies owned by Johnson & Johnson was won on behalf of 1,350 women who had mesh and tape products implanted to treat pelvic prolapse or stress urinary incontinence, both common complications of childbirth. 

Speaking outside court, Julie Davis, one of the claimants, said the judgment was a great step forward that would go some way in healing the damage done. The ordeal had made her world a lot smaller “as a woman, a woman who thinks they can do anything and be what they want to be”. It had affected her relationships, her family, her self-confidence, and her future.

“I always knew they should be held accountable, and in my heart of hearts today has put that right,” she said.

“The corporates have a lot to answer for. They’ve treated women essentially like guinea pigs and lied about it, and done nothing to help.”

The products have been the subject of separate class actions in the United Kingdom and United States, and some have since been removed from the Australian and New Zealand market.

Read our interview with New Zealand woman, Carmel Berry who has been living with severe pain and disabilities since she had a surgical mesh implant in 2004.

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