A scathing report into transvaginal mesh implants has recommended the devices “should only be used as a last resort” and found some women were not properly informed about potentially serious side effects.
The Senate Community Affairs References Inquiry began investigating the pelvic implants after hundreds of Australian women complained of serious and debilitating side effects.
Senator Derryn Hinch, who spearheaded the inquiry, said the damage to women was far worse than the committee thought it would be.
“I believe it was one of the biggest medical scandals Australian women have ever been subjected to and there are still a lot of questions to be answered, ” he said.
“Thousands of women were deformed.”
The report recommends:
- setting up a national register to track all implants
- better education for both doctors and patients
- more surgical training so women can get the devices removed
Senator Hinch said the committee estimated between 10,000 to 15,000 women may have suffered side effects from mesh devices.
The committee’s chair, Rachel Siewert, said many of the women who received mesh suffered for a long time.
“They were ignored and treated appallingly,” she said. “I hope we never have another inquiry where we see such suffering from the witnesses.”
‘It’s time to see some legislation’
Gai Thompson had a mesh device implanted nine years ago. She said it ruined her life.
“The Senate inquiry was a welcome step-forward for sufferers like me,” she said.
“Now it’s time to see some legislation that ensures that this never happens to another woman again.”
Ms Thompson is one of the lead claimants in a class action against one of the mesh manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, involving more than 700 women.
“The only reason any of us talk about the pain we’ve endured following our ordeal with this product is to impact change and prevent any other women from going through what we have,” she said.
Many women told the inquiry that “doctors didn’t tell them they were having mesh implanted”, Senator Hinch said.
“Others were told, ‘It’s a walk in the park. You will be like a 16-year-old girl again’.”
The Senate inquiry comes after hundreds of Australian women recounted how the devices left them in chronic, debilitating pain, unable to have sex and with recurring infections.
Many told the ABC they felt they had not been listened to by their doctors and were told the mesh could not be the reason for their ill health.
But with growing public outrage, in November 2017 health authorities banned controversial vaginal mesh implants for use in pelvic organ prolapse.