Mesh implant listed as '˜cause of death' for first time

A woman who underwent controversial mesh implant surgery is believed to be the first in Scotland to have the procedure listed as an underlying cause of death.

Eileen Baxter, 75, died on 27 August after being admitted to hospital the previous week with internal bleeding, sickness and diarrhoea.

Multiple organ failure is listed as directly leading to her death, with sacrocolopexy mesh repair – an implant to fix a pelvic organ prolapse – listed as an underlying cause.

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Last night, Mrs Baxter’s son Mark, 52, said he was given the number for the legal department of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh by medical staff after he asked for a copy of his mother’s death certificate, which The Scotsman has seen.

Eileen Baxter.Eileen Baxter.
Eileen Baxter.

He said: “I’ve told them I’m going to take things as far as I can. They said they were very surprised where the tear in the bowel was – I mentioned my mother’s mesh implant to the doctor but we never got a straight answer.

“I’m really angry that my mother is not still here and I’m really annoyed she went through all of this.

“They didn’t bother about her – they didn’t seem to care about her.”

He added: “She was feeling unwell in July and was taken to the hospital by ambulance and they basically told her it was a ‘pain thing’.

“They advised her to speak to a counsellor to get advice on how to manage pain and they sent her away.

“I thought ‘they must be joking, my mum’s not well’.

“I would like to legally pursue this but I don’t know if we can get legal aid. We’re so annoyed and my poor dad Chic is lost, he’s completely devastated because they were so close, they did everything together.”

More than 20,000 women in Scotland have had the implants over the past 20 years but some have suffered painful and debilitating complications.

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The Scottish Government recommended suspension of mesh implants in their use by the NHS in 2014 while an independent safety review was carried out but since then around 400 procedures have been completed.

Mrs Baxter, a mother-of-two and a great-grandmother from Loanhead in Midlothian, underwent mesh surgery five years ago.

Her death certificate lists this as an antecedent cause of death that caused chronic pelvic inflammation and possible sepsis leading to anterior rectal perforation and finally the multiple organ failure that ultimately led to her death.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay who has campaigned vigorously on behalf of the Scottish Mesh Survivors group, called on health secretary Jeane Freeman to launch an investigation into Mrs Baxter’s case to “ensure no further harm” is done to women across the country.

He said: “The news that a repair to a mesh implant carried out by NHS Scotland was a contributing factor in the death of Eileen Baxter will deeply distress not only her family but the many hundreds of women in Scotland who underwent this procedure.

“Many women who have undergone this procedure say they have experienced infections, bleeding and even paralysis.

“Mesh implants should be consigned to the history books and those manufacturers who potentially broke the law should be prosecuted.”

The Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign said in 2014 that 12 women had reported cases to the UK-wide Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), while it is believed more than 400 women have undergone repeated operations in an attempt to resolve the problems.

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Mesh survivor Elaine Holmes, from Newton Mearns, said: “It’s absolutely shocking, what concerns me is the possible sepsis – this woman suffered terribly, has she become antibiotic resistant? Has she been dismissed and ignored? There are so many questions needing asked in this case.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our condolences go to the family and friends of Eileen Baxter.

“The Scottish Government does not hold information on individual patients or their treatment, but we will give any information supplied to us on Ms Baxter’s case very careful consideration.”