Earlier this month, jury selection began in the trial for a pelvic mesh injury lawsuit filed by plaintiff Patricia Hammons. The suit, which will be argued in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, was filed by Hammons in 2013 after a now-discontinued defective medical product called Prolift failed to work as designed and marketed. Parts of the mesh, which Hammons’ attorney says was large enough to cover two and a half football fields, permanently adhered to her bladder, causing a painful build-up of scar tissue. The mesh may have also caused Hammons’ small intestine to collapse into her vaginal cavity, though the defense counsel disputes this connection.
Woman Sues After Defective Pelvic Mesh Implant Fuses to Her Bladder, Causes Chronic Pain, Requires Surgeries
In 2009, then 58-year-old Patricia Hammons underwent a fairly common surgery to have a pelvic mesh implanted into her body. The purpose of these surgeries – which, according to the FDA, are performed hundreds of thousands of times each year – is to correct a condition called cystocele or bladder prolapse, in which the bladder, which is normally secured in place by a hammock-like group of supportive pelvic muscles, begins to collapse downward into the vagina. Bladder prolapse is a common condition in women who have had children, because the process of giving birth can significantly stretch and weaken the pelvic muscles that hold the bladder in place.
Despite causing a host of unpleasant medical effects, such as incontinence, pain, and difficulty urinating, bladder prolapse is usually treatable with a mesh implant (or even non-surgical remedies, in mild cases). The mesh acts like a supportive base for the bladder, taking up the function of the weakened pelvic muscles.
Unfortunately for Hammons – and numerous other plaintiffs who been the victims of similar injuries – her mesh implant began to show signs of failure almost immediately after the procedure. Following her surgery, Hammons began to experience severe pain during intercourse. Her incontinence, which should have been corrected by the mesh, persisted.
Hammon’s post-operative medical problems became so unbearable that she eventually had to undergo not one, but several additional surgeries: first, a corrective surgery, and then, when that failed, multiple surgeries to have the mesh removed altogether.
As they operated, Hammons’ surgeons were alarmed to find the mesh implant “bunched up” on the underside of her bladder. Portions of it had actually fused to her bladder, and could not be surgically removed.
While the corrective surgeries helped to ease Hammons’ considerable pain and discomfort, they also left her with a dramatically shortened vaginal cavity. As the complaint notes, doctors say it is unlikely that Hammons will ever be able to engage in intercourse again. Thus, not only did the defective mesh implant exacerbate the problems caused by her bladder prolapse (while burdening her with tremendous medical costs) – it also deprived her of the ability to enjoy physical intimacy. Hammons was physically, financially, and emotionally harmed by a common procedure she thought would improve her qualify of life.
Did Marketers Hide Information About Medical Risks from Doctors and Patients?
There can be no doubt that Hammons did not have the medical outcome anticipated by her doctors. So what actually went wrong with the mesh?
There are several answers to that question – some medical, some financial. With regard to possible medical deficiencies, plaintiff’s counsel has pointed to a few issues in the product’s design:
- It uses too much material. To elaborate on the football field comparison, a piece of mesh which could cover two and a half football fields would have to cover a staggering 316,800 square feet.
- The pores between the strands of mesh weren’t large enough, which led to the growth of scar tissue on Hammon’s bladder. The way the mesh was inserted caused the pores to shrink.
- Ethicon, the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary responsible for marketing Prolift, did not identify a clear procedure for removing the mesh in the event of failure.
The financial aspect of Hammons’ mesh failure is arguably more disturbing. Plaintiff’s counsel alleges that Ethicon, in its “rush to get their product to the market” before competitors, deliberately withheld from doctors vital information about the mesh’s tendency to bunch up, as it did inside Hammons’ body. Ethicon’s attorney counters that the risks of pelvic meshes, which have been in use since the mid-nineties, were already common knowledge in the medical community.
“Contrary to J&J defendants’ representations and marketing to the medical community and to the patients themselves, their pelvic mesh products… have a high failure, injury, and complications rate, fail to perform as intended, require frequent and often debilitating re-operations, and have caused severe and irreversible injuries,” says the complaint.
At least 16 verdicts have been awarded in pelvic/vaginal mesh lawsuits over the past few years, some of which have involved Johnson & Johnson. One of the largest verdicts, awarded by a Delaware jury, totaled $100 million.
If you or someone you love was injured by a defective pelvic mesh implant or other medical product, such as a defective pacemaker or defective hip implant, you’re entitled to answers. You may also be entitled to compensation, which can help with your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses. To start exploring your options in a free and private legal consultation, call personal injury attorney Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206. You won’t be charged any fees unless Brent makes a recovery for you.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***