BBC and other sources reported yesterday that Jean-Claude Mas, founder of French manufacturer Poly Implant Prosthèse, the company behind the PIP breast implant scandal, was released from French police custody, pending trial due to take place in April 2013.

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Founder of PIP implants, Jean -Claude Mas, released from jail.

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Mas has reportedly admitted purchasing non-medical grade silicone at a reduced price for the implants, but denies that the implants were as a consequence, harmful to human health. Mas has also reportedly admitted falsifying papers in order to evade detection of such unauthorised actions by inspection agencies, which gave rise to the provision of an apparent CE safety mark. Although released on effective bail, Mas has been subjected to a number of restrictions. 

The concerns over the safety of the PIP implants came into the public domain in December 2011, although these had been made known to suppliers of breast implants (who largely had ceased to use them) many months earlier. As the story developed, it became apparent that up to 40,000 British women could be potentially affected, although the health implications of the use of non-medical grade silicone remained uncertain.

Initially there was a scare from French authorities that this could lead to an increased cancer risk, but stringent medical testing has proved this to be highly unlikely. However, a number of tests have shown that these PIP implants are more prone to rupture (up to twice the frequency), than other properly approved implants, and that should this occur, the type of silicone used is more likely to be irritant to human tissue.

The company Poly Implant Prosthèse went into the equivalent of insolvency before the scandal broke. Due to criminal/unauthorised activity, the insurance was invalidated. Individuals affected by this issue have therefore been left to look to the suppliers of the implants to seek reparation and compensation. Multi-party actions have been commenced in a number of European countries, including the UK, against the suppliers of these implants.

In the face of public pressure, a number of cosmetic surgery clinics have agreed to remove the affected implants at no cost to the patient. If the clinic refuses, the NHS has agreed to remove the implants. However, neither the NHS, nor the clinics concerned, have agreed to replace the unauthorised implants with an approved alternative free of charge. The clinics will replace them, but only at a cost to the patient.

Although possibly seen as a "vanity" product, the majority of patients who have chosen to undergo surgery to have breast implants, had issues of low self-esteem associated with their body shape. The surgery has often significantly improved their self-image and may have taken place a number of years ago. The prospect of having those implants removed, to negate the potential health risks associated with them, coupled with concerns over skin and tissue stretching that has been achieved by the implants, has caused real and significant levels of anxiety, concern and distress to the women concerned, which must be accounted for in addition to the cost and pain of the repeat surgery itself.

If you would like to discuss any individual queries, we are happy to do so, please call Kate Briggs on 023 8085 7067.

Kym Provan

Senior Solicitor

Clinical Negligence team

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