Friday, December 23, 2011

When medicine goes wrong

How do you undo a surgery? Well you can't restore all the little nerves, blood vessels, tendons and muscles to their pristine  untouched state - that just doesn't work. But you can have implanted thingies removed and replaced with a newer model. But this means the whole mental, financial, physical stress of the original surgery all over again and more. I mean we hear about the cases of the doctors took out the wrong part, or someone received the wrong medication or wrong dose, or got an infection in the hospital. But what happens when its a much bigger mistake affecting thousands?

One example from this morning's news is that a child who received a transplanted blood vessel and two others who received kidneys now all have hepatitis C. These were all traced back to a single donor and a testing error at a tissue bank and some delayed communication. These three people now face lives full of illness. How do you undo that one? You can't. Ever.

But here is a much larger example of medicine gone bad. There was a French company which used non medical grade silicon in its breast implants - silicon meant to be used for mattresses (ick!). The company was stopped in 2010 but there are 30,000 French women with their implants, 1000 of whom have had them rupture so far. The French government is recommending that all 30,000 women have these removed. There have also been 8 cases of cancer possibly linked to the implants and one death.. A rupture is very painful and requires additional surgeries. So the French government has banned them. But the company had made 300,000 implants over the 12 years in operation - some went to the UK and many went to South America and other parts of the world.

The British government is downplaying the cancer risks from these implants and claim they don't have a cancer link. But they didn't mention the risks of them rupturing, recommend consulting with the implanting surgeon if there are concerns and are not recommending removal of this brand of implants.

But BACK UP A MINUTE, a company used inferior quality materials to make medical implants and where are the fines, penalties, lawsuits? I am not a fan of stupid lawsuits but in this case where 30,000 women are going to have to have a second surgery. Even if France's national health care pays for it, that is still a lost cost. What about the emotional and physical strain?

Yoo hoo, the 'morons' (and I use that term loosely, feel free to substitute a stronger word if you want) who made the decision to use the inferior silicon and the other 'morons' who approve them should be held accountable in some way - financially, civilly, and criminally. Some where a long the manufacturing pipeline there was some deception which will cost millions of dollars/pounds/Euros to the general public as well as physical pain and suffering and emotional distress when faced with more surgery.

This is a situation which is relatively scary. I mean it was caught here but what about other cases of this we do not know about elsewhere in the world? Medicine when done wrong is really hard to undo and should be avoided at all costs.

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