From The Blog

What UK’s Breast Implant Scandal Tells Us About Health Care Reform

These days, product recalls are nothing out of the ordinary. From children’s toys to Tylenol, you locate the offending item, send in your receipt,...

These days, product recalls are nothing out of the ordinary. From children’s toys to Tylenol, you locate the offending item, send in your receipt, and with any luck, get a refund. But when the recall in question concerns a breast implant – as it does right now in a scandal here in the U.K. – then the process is a quite bit more complicated.

In case you haven’t heard, silicone breast implants made with P.I.P. – an industrial grade silicone – by a French company have now been declared faulty, exposing women to ruptures, leaks and possible risks of cancer. Over the past 12 years, some 300,000 of these implants were sold to women around the globe in more than 65 countries, predominantly in Europe and South America. (The United States banned this product and declared it unsafe.)

The French government has recently recalled all P.I.P. implants and agreed to pay for their removal, but only for women who’d had the original surgery done in France. The British government maintains that the link between P.I.P. implants and cancer is far lower than suggested by French data. It has agreed to pay for any removal on implants performed by the National Health Service (NHS) over the past decade (primarily those linked to breast cancer reconstructive surgery). But this accounts for only about 5% of the 40,000 women who’ve had implants in this country during that time.

As for the remaining 38,000 or so cases, the government is urging private clinics to perform the recalls for free on moral grounds. (As a last resort, the government will step in to pay for removal of implants put in in a private clinic that has closed or is unwilling to provide the service.

And this is where things get interesting.

Read the rest of this story at The Washington Post’s She The People Blog


Image: breast implant 5 by matthewlucas via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. BigLittleWolf January 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    This is indeed both horrifying and fascinating. Not only for the numbers of women whose health is at stake, but the differing approach to the moral responsibility of a health care provider (or doctor), as you point out.

    Funny. I haven’t heard the notion of a physician’s moral responsibility in some time. Surely that’s my American cynicism showing, after all too many years of dealing with our absurd system.

    As to the two variations of health care in this country? I’d say it’s less about private versus public, and more about options available with money, and lack of options, without.

  2. Delia Lloyd January 11, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    @biglittlewolf – I know! Doesn’t “morality” sound quaint when applied to health care (or anything, for that matter??) Thanks for weighing in. Totally agree re: options vs. none. Just meant to make the point that any sort of stratification is completely foreign to Brits and Europeans more generally as even those with private insurance also benefit from a universally available public health system. Thanks for weighing in. Happy New Year!

  3. GingerR January 12, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    I see this as having parallels to the US housing crisis. Everybody was happy to reap the gains of rising home prices but when prices fell it became “our” responsibility.

    I personally think that women who had implants for non-reconstructive reasons were making a choice and that they should participate in the costs of removal should they want them removed.

    Everybody wants the upside but nobody wants the downside. At some point individuals have to accept responsibility.

  4. delialloyd January 12, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    That’s a nice analogy, @Ginger. |Thanks for it. I’m also less sympathetic to the cosmetic cases, (though I suppose they can’t be blamed if the government erred in clearing a chemical that shouldn’t have been cleared.) It really is a fascinating case of where to put the blame and whom to sympathize with – I just love this story!

Leave a Reply