Australian women remember the excruciating pain a small contraceptive device has had in their lives, forcing many to undergo hysterectomies.
Five years after vaginal mesh implants were banned in Australia, a class action has been launched on behalf of thousands of women with the support of American lawyer Erin Brockovich.
Up to 7,000 women in Australia chose a contraceptive called Essure, a sharp metal coil that is inserted into each fallopian tube and is intended to generate enough scar tissue to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.
Many ended up with excruciating pain and other ill effects that affected every aspect of their lives.
Simmone Burford of Adelaide underwent the procedure after giving birth to her third child in 2008 after being told it would be painless with no side effects
The procedure ended up being the most painful experience of her life, including childbirth.
It’s a decision she’s still paying the price for, which she says has robbed her of her life for the last 15 years.
Essure contraceptive implant banned in Australia after hundreds of Australian women complained about side effects
“I’m dealing with its effects now, I still have days where I can’t get out of bed,” she said 60 minutes as she fights back tears.
“You feel like you’re dying, you feel like you’re dying from within.
“If I ever had the chance to go back and do it again, I never would have done it.”
Ms Burford suffered from a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, a metallic taste in her mouth, golf ball-sized blood clots, persistent menstrual bleeding and a numb side of her face.
“My hair started falling out in clumps, I got a rash on my hands and feet, it was like contact dermatitis, it was blisters,” she said.
When Ms Burford expressed her concern to her doctor, he told her it was in her head and she was being referred to a mental health professional.
“That also affects your family and your ability to be a good mother, a good wife, a worker, because they hear that everything is fine, so they start to think there’s something wrong with you?” she said.
The device eventually ended up broken and embedded in her fallopian tubes, leaving her with no choice but to undergo a hysterectomy six years later at age 36.
“When my doctor spoke to me during my recovery, she told me I had the uterus of a 70-year-old,” she recalls.
“It was very abnormal for someone my age.”
Simmone Burford (pictured) says the procedure has taken her life for 15 years
Sioux Bettiens also chose to have the procedure, thinking it would be quicker and less painful than having her fallopian tubes tied.
Like Ms. Burford, she was told by doctors that she was imagining the chronic pain.
Nine years later, she says she is still recovering from the constant pain and damage she has caused.
‘I just thought oh my god what have they put in it,’ said Mrs Bettiens.
“I’ve had dozens of procedures and it hasn’t stopped.”
“Nobody wants to go through surgery all the time to correct something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
“I need a solution and so do all the other women affected by this.”
Slater & Gordon attorney Kylie Trounson has filed a class action on behalf of Australian women whose lives have been turned upside down by the Essure lawsuit.
She believes up to 7,000 patients in Australia have been affected by what she described as a ticking time bomb.
Sioux Bettiens (pictured) is still recovering from the damage she sustained nine years ago
Two years ago, a global pharmaceutical giant agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle 39,000 American women, without admitting any guilt or liability.
The settlement did not apply to claims filed in other countries.
Ms Trounson hopes to achieve a similar outcome for Australian patients.
“Why do you force Australian women to go to court and be questioned about their stories if they have settled in the US?” she said.
“It’s the same device, it’s the same anatomy, why should Australian women be treated differently?”
The Australian class action has the backing of high-profile US legal campaigner Erin Brockovich.
“The justice would be that this never happened,” she told the program.
US legal campaigner Erin Brockovich (pictured) has supported an Australian class action for Australian women who were adversely affected by the Essure lawsuit
“Justice doesn’t come because there’s a payday, because they still have to suffer physically for the rest of their lives.
“I find it really disturbing that we have to go so far as to get the right thing done for our health and well-being. So play!’
In 2017, the Therapeutic Goods Administration banned vaginal mesh implants in Australia, including Essure, which was first approved nearly two decades earlier.
The medical watchdog found that the risks of vaginal mesh implants far outweighed the benefits of the product, which was used to treat pelvic prolapse and urinary incontinence, after hundreds of women claimed the mesh gave them debilitating, chronic pain and did not help them. enabled them to have sex again .
The mesh is made of a plastic called polypropylene, designed to help the pelvic floor muscles keep the internal organs in place.