Fight for compensation goes on amid calls for responsible clinics to remove faulty breast implants, says Claire Smith
NEXT week, Emma Hardie, a 36-year-old mother of three from Cumbernauld, will go under the knife for a breast reconstruction.
She is one of around 4,000 women in Scotland who have PIP implants – the breast implants made from industrial silicone – which have three times the risk of rupturing as normal implants.
Although the faulty implants have not been tested for use on humans, Hardie, like many others, has been left with no choice but to pay to have them removed and replaced.
“I have had to beg, borrow and steal to get the money together,” says Hardie, whose husband has his own auto business.
She had her implants three years ago – but had originally planned just to have an uplift.
“It was all about having an uplift after breast-feeding three children. I had been thinking about it for ten years.”
Hardie had been offered an uplift on the NHS, but felt very strongly that people should pay for elective surgery. The initial operation, from the Hospital Group, which is endorsed by Kerry Katona, cost her £5.600.
“In my opinion I was mis- sold this procedure. I was told I would never have to have another operation as long as I lived. I was told these PIP implants were the best available and would last forever.”
Even before it emerged that PIP implants contained industrial silicone rather than medical silicone, Hardie felt lumps growing in her breasts and had gone for several scans.
After it emerged that PIP implants were more likely to rupture and could have health implications, she looked into treatment on the NHS but was rejected.
“As far as removal on the NHS goes, it seems to be pot luck.”
Hardie is one of a group of women involved in a group action against the companies involved in inserting the suspect implants. Eventually she hopes she will be awarded compensation. Like many, she has been shocked at the lack of sympathy for the women affected.
“If it had been any other medical device which had been faulty – like a pacemaker or a hip replacement, I don’t think people would have been so judgmental. It isn’t just about vanity – and people are too ready to judge without knowing the circumstances.”
Breast surgeon Taimur Shoaib, who speaks for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) in Scotland, said he believed the clinics which fitted the implants had a responsibility to remove and replace them.
“My view is they should be removed. The women should go back to the clinics involved and they should sort it out.” he said. “Unfortunately because they are not doing that the NHS is forced to pick up the pieces.”
He said he was concerned about the lack of sympathy for the victims of the PIP scandal.
Shoaib, who works at the Nuffield Hospital, said he never used PIP implants himself because of reservations about the company involved. “I didn’t put any PIP implants in because they had a bad reputation. The MHRA banned a previous one of their implants in 2001.”
He said there was not enough evidence to say the implants were safe.
“This [silicone] is a material which has not been passed for human use. No one really knows what the risks are. There is also a lot of speculation that what has been used in these implants may not just be silicone but may have other components.”
Scottish victims of the PIP scandal are still calling for a public enquiry into the issue and believe the government is not doing enough to help those involved.
Spokeswoman for the PIP Implants Scotland campaign group Trisha Devine said: “After a brief investigation and a couple of government reports, the ‘experts’ now tell us that there’s no significant long-term risk for women with PIP implants.
“So the government is happy to close the book on this and ignore the women who are reporting more and more health problems?
“It took centuries to discover the health dangers of asbestos, lead and mercury poisoning. We’re not going to let political scientists dupe us into believing that just because there’s no scientific evidence to show harm right now, industrial silicone is perfectly safe to have inside our bodies.”
Jackie Baillie, MSP, said: “This is not about the rights or wrongs of plastic surgery. This is about the care and support we offer women who have been caught up in a public health scandal.
“There were around 4,000 women involved, and the Scottish Government has an overarching responsibility for the nation’s health. It should instruct a public inquiry, which could include establishing minimum standards for private clinics; an early notification procedure; the consideration of issues like the extent of the use of PIP implants in Scotland, and the possible use of Scotland’s national procurement body to ensure there are effective safeguards. ”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We expect private surgery providers to take responsibility for their patients. Where a private provider is no longer in operation or does not offer appropriate care, the NHS will support removal of implants where that is the clinically appropriate course of action.
“Patient safety is the top priority and we would continue to encourage any woman who is worried to contact their surgeon or healthcare provider for advice. NHS Inform will also be able to answer any questions and provide advice.”
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