'Years of pain': US manufacturer to pay $105m to Australian women

‘Years of pain’: Australian women to receive $105 million from US medical devices manufacturer Boston Scientific

Australian women facing severe pain after receiving pelvic mesh and sling implants have won a $105 million settlement with the multinational manufacturer of medical devices, Boston Scientific. 

The surgically implanted transvaginal mesh or sling was most commonly used as a treatment for pelvic prolapse or stress urinary incontinence, both common complications of childbirth. But instead of helping, it left many women with severe infections and complications. 

Led by Shine Lawyers Practice Leader Rebecca Jancauskas (pictured above), the class action was initially launched on behalf of the Australian women, back in March 2021. The compensation payment covers any person who was implanted with one or more of a prescribed list of mesh and sling implants in Australia, between 2005 and the 1st of June, 2022 (see the list below).

One woman, Deborah Stanford, who was a key plaintiff in the Boston case, came away with disastrous symptoms after her 2012 surgery to receive the Obtryx sling. She received the sling to reposition her bladder, which was sitting in her birth canal, but in a statement issued in March last year said she’d endured nine years of suffering since her surgery. 

Upon waking from the initial operation, Stanford had to use the toilet 15 times per day and went through six to seven incontinence pads daily. Since then, she’s undergone eight surgeries to try to address the bladder and incontinence issues, including a revision surgery in 2016 that left her with just 15 per cent bladder function and made it difficult for her to use the toilet at all. She suffers dyspareunia, or painful intercourse, and was even forced to go on Palexia – a drug 80% stronger than morphine – for pain management. Her chronic pain still made it impossible for her to work and she requires full time care. 

“The most basic bodily function is for people to go to the toilet comfortably, and I can’t even wee some days,” she said on initially launching the class action with Shine Lawyers.

“If I knew how hard this was going to be, I never would have gone through with it.” 

It’s estimated 150,000 Australian women received the mesh implants and Boston Scientific is already the third manufacturer to be taken on over the issue in Australia.

The first manufacturer to be sued was Johnson & Johnson, in a landmark case watched around the world where, in 2019, Shine Lawyers won a class action on behalf of 1,350 women. The second manufacturer to face class actions was Astora Women’s Health, and now Shine Lawyers has announced it reached a $105 settlement with Boston Scientific. 

Last year, the High Court dismissed an appeal and preserved the judgment of the Federal Court, which ruled that thousands of women had their “lives destroyed” by the faulty pelvic mesh implants provided by Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon. That class action was labelled as “the largest women’s health class action in Australian history”.

In a statement regarding this latest settlement, class actions practice leader for Shine Lawyers, Rebecca Jaucauskas, said, “This settlement will provide these women compensation that may be used to support their future treatment needs.”

The case against Boston Scientific alleged it was negligent, that the implants were defective and non fit-for-purpose, and that information and warnings given by the company failed to properly tell doctors and users of the nature and severity of the risks. 

Boston Scientific has previously denied the allegations made in the case. The court made no findings of liability against Boston Scientific and the settlement is not an admission of misconduct or liability by the company. 

Still, the case alleged that the implants caused, “significant and sometimes severe and life-altering complications, including erosion and chronic pain. 

Jancauskas says that nobody can live fully in severe pain and that there are few existing painkillers to treat the agony that pelvic mesh can cause. 

“Like all women suffering mesh-related injuries, these women need to be heard and compensated,” she says.

The class action covers those implanted with one or more of the following mesh and sling implants in Australia between 2005 and 1 June 2022: Pinnacle™ Pelvic Floor Repair Kit, Pinnacle™ Lite Posterior, Uphold™ Vaginal Support System, Uphold™ LITE Vaginal Support System, Upsylon™ Y-Mesh, Advantage™ Transvaginal Mid-Urethral Sling System, Advantage Fit™ Transvaginal Mid-Urethral Sling System, Obtryx™ Transobturator Sling System, Obtryx™ II Transobturator Mid-Urethral Sling System, Lynx™ Suprapubic Mid-Urethral Sling System, Solyx™ Single-Incision Sling System; and/or Polyform™.

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