Words: Nicci Talbot
The French health ministry has advised 30,000 women with ‘PIP’ breast implants to have them removed and will pay for it with state funds. It was an expected move following a week of debate about the health fraud carried out by defunct French firm Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP).
In contrast, the approach here in the UK is ‘wait and see’. Medical bodies have advised women not to panic and reiterate that there is no need for immediate removal unless the implants have weakened or ruptured – i.e. unless you’re ill. Women should go back to their surgeon and ask to have them checked for any signs of weakening. They also face the prospect of paying for their removal, and who wouldn’t want them out given that they were designed to fill mattresses, not breasts? If the surgeons who used the defective implant value their reputation they will offer to take them out for free – surely the cost will be covered by insurance if they had no idea that the implants were substandard?
PIP has committed a fraud on a massive scale, which has put lives at risk. The silicone gel causes irritation and has been linked to cancer although there’s no proof as yet. One woman in France has died from a rare form of cancer. Over the past 10 years PIP must have saved a small fortune. Interpol wants its director Jean-Claude Mas for crimes against ‘life and health’. I look forward to hearing his statement of accountability, if one is forthcoming.
What’s shocking is that it’s taken 10 years for the scandal to come to light and only because women complained of illness, muscle pain and ruptured implants. The French government has panicked and is taking a precautionary measure of advising removal and offering to pay the bill. Is this because there is a loophole in the law around the regulation of such products? The manufacturers are accountable but it raises questions about the role of individual clinics that bought the implants. Were they aware that the products were cheaper than the norm? Did anyone investigate why? Who makes the decision about which implants to use and does the surgeon have a say?
It puts women considering having breast implants – or any other cosmetic surgery – in a difficult position. You pay for what you presume will be a premium service using high quality, medical grade materials. How do you know which types of silicone implants are best and will the clinic disclose what they are using? Let’s hope that something good comes out of this week’s events to make the process is more open so women know exactly what they are paying for and can make an informed decision.
BBC News – UK to review risk assessment data (accessed 01.01.12)