Michelmores' interview with top US vaginal mesh lawyer
Pioneering US mesh lawyer on the scandal that has reached the UK
Henry Garrard III is a partner in the US firm Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, based in Athens, Georgia. He was responsible for the ground-breaking vaginal mesh case which, in 2013, saw the multinational firm Bard ordered to pay $2 million to Donna Cisson, a woman injured by mesh implants it had manufactured.
Henry continues to conduct high-profile legal claims on behalf of injured women, and is regarded as an authority on mesh injuries and litigation.
Mesh is now a global issue, and Henry has been in correspondence with Michelmores' Oliver Thorne, contemplating the changing shape of mesh litigation as it extends across the Atlantic. Here he shares his expertise on the wider issues surrounding the mesh debate, and offers advice to those injured by the devices in the UK.
MICHELMORES: Vaginal mesh devices are rapidly becoming a global scandal. In your experience, how does this compare with other mass negligence/product liability phenomena in the US?
HENRY GARRARD III: The magnitude of the problem is larger than in most complex drug and device cases. These cases are a prime example of experimenting on women without adequate clinical data, especially in the case of the 'armed' trans-vaginally placed mesh. The tragedy of the damage caused by these devices exceeds that of most other large cases of this kind.
M: You have said that 'if [people] do not an engage an attorney, there is a great likelihood that they will be disadvantaged by corporate America.' Is this the inevitable outcome of the way that the drug and medical device industry is structured?
HG: The clearance-to-market system in the US is not designed to protect the public. It is designed to allow companies to rush products into the marketplace. Unlike the Premarket Approval Application system [a licensing system for medical devices], there is no check by the regulatory agency (the Food and Drug Association, or FDA) on the safety of the products before they are cleared for marketing.
The mesh products were not approved for safety. Attorney involvement on behalf of the victims is crucial, to force the companies to be more responsible and to protect women in today's world.
M: In the UK, the National Health Service will commonly step in to assist women who have been fitted with mesh products by private physicians. With no such safety-net for revision procedures, what is the effect on US mesh victims requiring further surgery?
HG: The unfortunate circumstance for many women is that they have no health coverage and no assets to pay for necessary care, including surgery. We have been able to help some to get charity care, but not nearly enough. The FDA is not a help, and in general the US government has not stepped forward to be of assistance. This has caused some women to be victimized by bad organizations.
Fortunately there are some men and women in the legal profession who are currently dedicating their entire practices to helping these women who have been victimized by trans-vaginal mesh. Many doctors have been victimized as well, by trusting manufacturers to provide safe and effective products - they too have been misled.
M: By comparison with the US, mesh consciousness and litigation in England is only beginning to gather pace. What is your advice to those who have been fitted with these devices?
HG: First, look after your own health. That is more important than any law suit. If you have problems that may be related to mesh, seek out physicians who are experts in women's pelvic floor health care and repair, and get an examination. Educate yourself as to what to pay attention to, as far as problems and symptoms are concerned. Not everything is related to mesh but seek good care, and if you have legitimate/real problems and complications from mesh, get good care.
After you first take care of your health, and if you have a true injury caused by mesh misbehaviour, seek legal counsel by good, experienced attorneys to determine if you have rights that should be protected.
If you would like to discuss a claim relating to vaginal mesh injury, you can contact us for free, discreet and impartial advice.
You can read more about vaginal mesh in the UK here.
You can see the work of Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley here.