Leader: Implant removal plans may cost us dear

IF THE initial row over the degree of risk in banned PIP breast implants was not controversial enough, the admonition from the government yesterday that private clinics have a “moral duty” to remove these implants from women they operated on will prove arguably more contentious.

Until now a government review has insisted that women did not routinely need to have the implants removed. Tests had not shown any increased risk of toxicity from the filler compound. The French authorities, which have offered to pay for all implants to be removed, quoted a rupture rate of 5 per cent. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) initially said the rate was 1 per cent – in line with other implants.

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Now the government says that women who had implants fitted by the NHS and who are anxious to have them removed can do so. But it will not pay for those who had the operation privately. Some 40,000 women are thought to have been fitted with PIP implants, 95 per cent of them privately. Campaigners will be almost certain to insist that the government pays for all removal operations, not just those on the NHS where implants were done on medical or psychological grounds. Many privately funded implants were cosmetic. Is there now a liability on the taxpayer to fund the cost of their removal? Or should the state fund all removals, given the government’s admission that it was “undeniably the case” the implants were not medical grade and should not have been implanted in the first place?

An attempt to hold the line will almost certainly excite the attentions of the personal injury lawyers.