Finding the truth through medical Journalism
17:30 Tuesday June 19th
Sling The Mesh – how I stumbled into the biggest women’s health scandal of our generation
I’ve been a regional newspaper journalist since 1990, with a passion for human interest stories and a mission to take jargon-heavy documents and turn them into plain English.
For 28 years this has involved planning agendas at local councils, court reporting, fund raising stories, inquests, animal rescues. Disgruntled local resident associations, the bread and butter of any regional newspaper across the country. I love being part of a local community and being their voice for the good, the bad and the ugly -the lows and the highs of every day life.
So it is with this background that I was unwittingly thrown into the murky world of medical corruption and digging out the problem with pelvic mesh implants – then writing about it.
I didn’t mean to get involved, I certainly didn’t set out to found Sling The Mesh, and had no idea it would become the biggest global support network for mesh injured women, and some men who have hernia mesh, at a staggering 6,000 members.
I just happened to make the fatal mistake of trusting my surgeon and signing up for what I was told was a simple, 20 minute, gold standard fix for stress incontinence – suffered thanks to two babies and a passion for high impact exercise.
From superfit mum to compromised by daily pain and a surgeon who belittled my suffering, I was shocked to say the least. Three years later I am still shocked as I learn more about the shambolic medical device regulation system that means Ikea flat pack furniture gets more safety checks than a permanently implanted device. Compare that to drugs that take an average of 10 years to get to market yet permanent devices can be passed with a cursory nod of equivalence
Shocked that the science journals are full of all sorts of mischief. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until this. With trials that are short term, some p-hacked, research that uses quality of life surveys deliberately designed to not capture suffering, surgeons who only look at efficacy and not risks to life quality. Add in research leaders who have conflicts with industry, trial cohorts of as low as 58 to “prove” devices are safe. Abstracts that don’t reflect the truth contained within the paper but to a busy medic would show a positive spin. It came as a real shock.
Next came the jargon. All sorts of terms, references and every day science lingo to turn into plain English to make stories palatable to readers.
My aim continues to be to help empower women in the campaign with knowledge so they are confident to stand up and fight. Because with knowledge comes much power.
Many things have upset me about the mesh implant disaster but one that really stands out is that women had been fighting for a good 8 years until I came on the scene. They had all the information the research, the statistics, but nobody with the power to effect change listened. It took a journalist to be mesh injured to get this out in the media. The knock-on effect has been that the politicians became interested, Government realised they needed to step in. To effect real change. Sadly it often takes journalists shining a spotlight on corruption for anything to happen
For the mesh implant disaster, that journalist just happened to be me.