NEIL FINDLAY writes on the healthcare scandal affecting women in Scotland and the rest of the world
TRANSVAGINAL mesh. Have you heard of it? Probably not — why? Because it involves the “V” word.
Apparently in 2017 our society still runs a mile from talking about parts of our bodies that might offend.
For the last four years I have been working with some of the most determined, decent and honest women I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
The Scottish mesh survivors are a group of women who have come together to expose a global scandal that will have a huge impact on healthcare systems across the world.
Transvaginal mesh is a polypropylene product that is implanted in a women’s body to treat pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence and is described by the medical profession as “the gold standard” treatment for these conditions.
However, this product has left hundreds of thousands of women across the world disabled and in agony, many have to use wheelchairs, walking aids, some have lost organs and a great many have lost careers and relationships, all because of a product and procedure that was supposed to help them.
You see, being a mesh, when it is implanted the body tissue grows in and around it to anchor it to the body.
This means that should there be complications (and there have been many) it is extremely difficult to remove without causing internal damage to nerves, etc.
Indeed, some have had operations to remove the mesh only for the surgeon to report he has been unable to even find it. The procedure has been compared to trying to remove chewing gum from hair.
In Australia the biggest class action in Australian history is sitting in the courts.
In the US, litigation against Boston Scientific and Johnson and Johnson has resulted in multimillion-dollar payouts to victims and in Scotland the NHS faces one of its biggest ever claims.
Last week, the Scottish government published the final report of a review into the use of transvaginal mesh. A draft report had been agreed by all members of the review group in 2015.
Since then it transpires that secret meetings were being held without patient representatives Elaine Holmes and Olive McIlroy being invited.
The chair of the review resigned for “personal reasons” and a senior clinician resigned as did Holmes and McIlroy.
The final report, published last week, bore no resemblance to the agreed draft report.
It is claimed that key evidence was omitted, up-to-date information hidden and the independence of the report completely compromised.
In short, the report is a complete and an utter whitewash.
Last week the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were given a torrid time by MSPs furious at this attempted cover up.
Former health secretary Alex Neil, who previously suspended transvaginal mesh implants and who set up the review, was scathing in his critique and joined a chorus of MSPs calling for an investigation into what has gone on with the review.
In the meantime, the mesh suspension in Scotland will be lifted and, despite new guidelines, more women could face the same life-changing consequences that have affected so many women worldwide.
What is crystal clear, however, is that the magnificent Elaine Holmes and Olive McIlroy and the hundreds of women they have been working with are going nowhere — they are more determined than ever to secure justice. I will be with them every step of the way.