Julie Hatton, Partner and Law Society accredited clinical negligence specialist at Coodes Solicitors, explains why growing numbers of women are seeking compensation following vaginal mesh treatment.
Vaginal mesh treatment was introduced in the early 2000s. For women who had experienced pelvic organ prolapse after giving birth, it was often viewed as a better option than other forms of surgery. The procedure was also sometimes given to women suffering urinary incontinence.
However, thousands of women were left with serious symptoms following the procedure and new guidelines now only recommend vaginal mesh surgery in very specific circumstances.
Recent news reports have revealed that more than 50 women were given mesh treatment for prolapsed bowels at a private hospital in Bristol, when they should not have been operated on. The technique was used to treat issues caused by childbirth, but it has now come to light that these patients should have been offered different treatments and the surgeon has now been suspended.
The procedure involves woven synthetic netting being implanted into the pelvis. The aim is to support the weakened organs and repair damaged tissue. A small incision is made into the vaginal or abdominal wall to fit the pelvic mesh and, once it is in place, tissue grows into it to create a support.
Sadly, many women have experienced horrendous symptoms following this procedure, often as a result of the mesh being incorrectly placed. There are a range of reported complications, including severe pain in the back or pelvis, bleeding, infections and incontinence problems. NHS data suggests that one in 15 women has had to have their mesh implant removed, but this can be a difficult procedure because over time the mesh merges with the body’s tissue.It has also come to light that many women did not feel they gave informed consent for the procedure and were not made aware of the risks involved.
In October 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new draft guidance on vaginal mesh surgery, with formal guidance expected in the coming weeks. NICE now recommends that women are recommended non-surgical treatments in the first instance, with surgery being offered if those steps do not help.
Importantly, the guidelines also highlight the importance of women being made aware of the risk of complications from surgery, as well as being followed up for at least five years following the procedure.
If you have had vaginal mesh treatment and are concerned that you are experiencing symptoms then it is important to seek medical help sooner rather than later. You may also be able to pursue a clinical negligence claim.
Here at Coodes, we have experience at handling claims for women who have suffered negative side effects following vaginal mesh treatment. In these cases, there are two options that we would consider.
While these claims can be difficult to pursue, we would look into this as an option for you. We would need to demonstrate that the insert was defective and that the mistake was therefore with the manufacturer.
It is more likely that we would pursue a clinical negligence claim. We would consider three potential scenarios:
With any surgery, the doctor has a duty to discuss the procedure, including any risks, with the patient before getting consent for the surgery to go ahead. The failure to obtain informed consent is the key issue with many of these claims.
Recent media coverage on this issue, along with work from campaigners and support groups such as Sling the Mesh, is encouraging more women to speak out and seek help. I hope that growing awareness of the problems that can be caused by vaginal mesh treatment, along with more stringent guidelines, will mean more women getting the treatment and support they deserve.
For more information and advice on this issue from Coodes Solicitors, contact Julie Hatton in the Clinical Negligence team on 01326 214 036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.