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December 5th 2017 / 0 comment
The mother of two had suffered from numerous infections since being fitted with the scandal-hit mesh after childbirth. Her battle is one that many UK women will relate to according to recent stats and hopefully new NICE guidelines will lead to better regulation
Chrissy Brajcic, a prominent Canadian campaigner against vaginal-mesh implants, has died from sepsis after struggling with numerous infections for years.
The mother of two had been fitted with a polypropylene mesh TVT (tension-free vaginal tape) four years ago after she had given birth. Usually used to address mild stress incontinence, she suffered nerve damage and constant pain after her operation and, despite having had the device removed a year later, was back in hospital for the treatment of urinary tract infections and became resistant to antibiotics. In October, she was readmitted to hospital with sepsis and while her family awaits the results of a toxicology exam, they believe that her death can be directly connected to her mesh - and so is thought to be the first woman to die as a result of the widely reported scandal.
The devices have come under intense scrutiny in recent times. In April, it was reported that more than 800 women in the UK were taking legal action against the NHS and various vaginal-mesh manufacturers due to a range of problems experienced. Ms Brajcic herself had also launched a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, joining thousands of Canadian and American women taking similar actions. Used to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence suffered as a result of childbirth, there has been increased pressure on the NHS to make changes to how and when they’re used due to the problems that they can cause which include shrinking, moving, organ erosion, nerve damage and cutting through internal tissue to leave those affected in terrible pain and unable to work, have sex and even walk as a result.
Sufferers and experts alike have voiced concerns as to whether the benefits of them outweigh the risks. Earlier this year, Professor Carl Heneghan, who specialises in evidence-based medicine, stated that some of the devices are not clinically tested and drew attention to how large scale the problem could be, due to the number of women who have undergone the procedure. "I think this is the worst one [scandal] that we'll ever see in my lifetime because of the scale of the number of women affected,” he said. According to NHS data, more than 75,000 women in England had the TVT procedure between 2006 and 2016.
Additionally, it’s been reported that draft guidelines by UK health watchdog NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) set to be published next month, will be recommending that the mesh should no longer be used to treat prolapse. It doesn’t address its use for urinary incontinence though.
While the NHS isn’t obligated to take up its recommendations, the guidelines serve as a strong push towards better regulation of the device. Hopefully this will go some way in helping women in the UK who feel that their concerns and suffering have been overlooked. Kath Sansom, founder of Sling the Mesh, a UK campaign group who greatly respected Ms Brajcic, told The Independent: “Chrissy must not die in vain. Her death has shocked and upset women around the world. She only had a mild stress incontinence problem from childbirth and physio probably could have fixed it. Now she has lost her life. This is wrong in every way. This is shocking.”
Ms Sansom has created a JustGiving page to raise money to send to Ms Brajcic's young sons. You can donate to it here.
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