SENATOR Derryn Hinch has backed calls by consumer health groups for a total ban on pelvic mesh devices in Australia after a grim prediction following the suicide of a Queensland mesh victim.
“This suicide is the one we know about. There will be others,” Senator Hinch said after hearing sometimes shocking evidence from women mesh victims in 2017 at a Senate inquiry he campaigned to establish. A final report will be made public in February.
“There must be 15,000-20,000 Australian women affected by the mesh scandal and to see those women leaning on the walls, crouching on floors, unable to sit and in obvious pain at the inquiry hearings, was truly shocking,” he said.
“What we heard at the Senate inquiry I think is just the tip of the iceberg. I think all mesh should be banned. It was hearing from women about the desperate situations they’ve been left in that hit me, about how serious it all is.
“Women have been exploited, they’ve been abused. Doctors have profited by this. They’ve made money out of it and I think it’s a bloody disgrace.
“If this was a male problem, if this was something to do with the penis or prostate cancer, it would have been fixed 15 years ago.”
Senator Hinch said authorities including Australian medical device regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, would be pursued after the Senate inquiry final report.
“I’ve still got my powder dry on the TGA but what it did was approve various meshes because they were sort of just like the ones that had already been approved, without requiring evidence of safety. That’s no way to run a medical watchdog authority,” Senator Hinch said.
Primary school teacher Alison Blake, 64, was implanted with a prolapse mesh device in October, 2013 and suffered severe and immediate complications including disabling pain. A succession of further surgical procedures to remove the mesh and deal with the complications was unsuccessful.
In a final letter to her only child in June, 2015, Mrs Blake wrote: “I cannot bear the thought of leaving you but the emotional torment and physical pain I'm going through are just too much.”
“I simply cannot bear to be lying on a couch for months on end and to have to rely on catheters, enemas, Temazepam, pain killers and be a burden to my family and friends.”
She died on June 26, 2015. Her daughter, Leesa Tolhurst, said her mother gave up hope after a final visit to a doctor she thought would be able to offer her some relief.
“She’d gone to the doctor hoping that perhaps something could be done. She was hysterical when she came here and said there was nothing left. I just tried to comfort her. I remember her as she drove away from my house, there was just a look in her eyes,” Mrs Tolhurst said.
Senator Hinch criticised the response of health departments across the country to the desperate situation many women are in because of mesh surgery.
He supported women who have been pushing for an American doctor who has completely removed hundreds of different pelvic meshes to be sponsored to Australia, after many women were advised by Australian doctors that their meshes could not be removed.
“Women want full mesh removal. They don’t want partial removal which is what Australian doctors seem to be offering. I back the women 1000 per cent. I want to try to get him out here now,” Senator Hinch said.
- Suffer in Silence is a Newcastle Herald investigation spearheaded by journalist Joanne McCarthy