Dear Governor Brown,
Here’s a question to you – What’s a vagina worth?
That’s probably not a topic you spent time pondering, but you should.
Californian women – hundreds of thousands of Californian women – literally – are suffering terrible, permanent injuries, life threatening and debilitating pain because of synthetic, plastic mesh devices implanted in their vaginas. Some are on waiting lists for a special surgery to try and remove as much of the mesh as possible. Tens of thousands of others no longer have health insurance because of their mesh injuries and cannot afford medical care.
They were among some two million women, globally, who received mesh implants to repair pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Mesh was never tested in one vagina before it was put in hundreds of thousands of women. These women were guinea pigs.
Do we have your attention yet, Governor? If not, here’s more.
Terrible injuries have provoked several countries to stop such implants. In June of this year, the United Kingdom shut down mesh operations for prolapse to conduct a long-term study of injuries; Ireland followed. Australia banned them last year. Scotland called for an “immediate” halt on September 12, 2018. However, in the United States, doctors continue to implant these kits into as many vaginas as they can get their hands on.
How is this still happening in a country claiming to have the most modernized health care?
Why are you allowing this to happen in the State of California, Governor Brown?
Companies recruited OB-GYNs with limited surgical experience, trained them in the procedures using sales reps, and promised that these “simple” 30-minute implants would deliver unimaginable rewards (and Lamborghinis). A former vaginal mesh salesman and medical procedural trainer said, “We looked for low-hanging fruit” among the OB-GYN community, and offered them everything.
One by one, executives at these mesh makers have admitted under oath that they knew this plastic would shrink, detach, move, and perforate women’s internal organs while they were selling it. Not one company CEO has been fired. Not one has been put in jail. And as far as we know, none of them have attended the funeral for a victim of vaginal mesh sepsis.
Vaginal mesh was never tested in one vagina before it was put in hundreds of thousands of women.
Is it money? Because the companies responsible for these mesh implants, like Johnson & Johnson, Bard and Boston Scientific, have amassed billions of dollars in sales and don’t want to lose this lucrative revenue stream.
Speaking of money, we need to follow it. The medical device industry is a business like any other, and people have made a fortune pushing these devices that are known to be unsafe and improperly regulated.
There has been clear evidence of cover-up, clear evidence of corruption and conflicts of interest in this vaginal mesh scandal – all allowed by a criminally negligent medical device regulatory system and facilitated by our chronically underfunded health system. We need urgent reform, and we need justice for the unknown number of innocent victims who have suffered and died.
Meanwhile, these women have been left for road kill.
This summer, Netflix’s documentary “The Bleeding Edge” showed the extent of horrific injuries linked to plastic mesh “migration” (as it’s politely called) in women’s internal organs; “60 Minutes” exposed one mesh maker’s desperate efforts to protect its source of plastic. But the overall issue hasn’t had much visibility.
Mesh treatment and removal surgeries are costing insurance companies millions of dollars, and much of that is being passed on to injured victims and all of us as taxpayers. Mesh patients are repeatedly piling up at the hospital with chronic and expensive urinary tract infections, bleeding, severe pain, and in some cases loss of motor control and the ability to walk. Most mesh victims can no longer have sexual relations because pieces of plastic mesh are shredding their flesh as well as their partners’ penises.
California saw more vaginal mesh implants than other states and the repair bills are adding up. We are seeing doctors who charged $3,000 for a thirty (30) minute implant now charging upwards of $75,000 to try and take that same mesh out.
In case we haven’t been clear up to this point, mesh deterioration is genital mutilation.
So how do California women get your attention, Governor?
We watched you go after GOOP due to a lack of scientific evidence to support a stone egg product it sold, but there were no women physically injured in connection with those sales.
How about the science on vaginal mesh? Have you thought to look at that yet? How about all the injuries women continue to suffer from vaginal mesh implants? At the very least, isn’t that as important as the rose quartz vaginal stone egg litigation?
Your own attorney general – then Kamala Harris – paved the way for California to stop these implants. In 2016, she announced that California was suing Johnson & Johnson for deceptive marketing. While citing numerous dangers with these mesh products Ms. Harris said, “Johnson & Johnson put millions of women at risk of severe health problems.”
Dr. Tom Margolis, M.D., of the Bay Area, one of the world’s foremost experts on pelvic mesh, warned the FDA in 2011 that mesh was unsafe to implant through a woman’s vagina. With respect to transvaginal mesh removal, Dr. Margolis has been quoted saying: “Trying to get mesh out of the vagina is like taking rebar out of a sidewalk and leaving the sidewalk intact.”
Chevron Phillips manufactured the plastic these companies were buying and using to make mesh kits and emphatically warned that this material was not intended for permanent or even temporary placement inside the human body.
Governor Brown, California has traditionally led the way in consumer rights, environmental rights, corporate greed and women’s rights. In fact, California has been such a trendsetter historically, that it is said that when California gets a cold, the rest of the country sneezes. In fact, this sentiment has permeated throughout much of Gavin Newsom’s current gubernatorial campaign – “The sun doesn’t set in the west, it actually rises in the west . . . California is America’s coming attraction, and we have a responsibility not just to push back but to assert a positive alternative . . . It’s what makes California, and America, great.”
Clearly, this is not the case in California when it comes to women’s health rights.
Vaginal mesh is a medical horror story, and the biggest scandal in the history of women’s health.
In the 1970s, during your first term as Governor of California, you made California a trailblazer with respect to advocating and supporting women’s rights. Women in California need you now as well and you aren’t listening to their screams for help.
These women need more than a maze of litigation to repair the damage, and sadly, the litigation for these vaginal mesh kits has gone on for years and is winding down. Some of these women have been left with unmeaningful settlement offers, while many have been left without any resolution at all. The sales representatives who sold these kits to the implanting doctors have made fortunes as well. Above all others, the manufacturers who sold these kits have made BILLIONS and some continue to do so today and the white shoe lawyers defending the manufacturers have also been paid billions. Yes, billions.
Every one of them is part of the problem. NOT part of the solution.
So where do these women fall in the midst of millions and billions of dollars being exchanged at the cost of their reproductive organs?
Is the subject of vaginal mesh making you uncomfortable?
Because we have spoken with hundreds of California women who have had mesh implanted in their vaginas. They could tell you what it means to be uncomfortable.
How would you feel if hardened pieces of plastic were sticking through the walls of your abdominal organs? Or how about having something that feels like a cheese grater rub into your bladder, cut your urethra, all the while continuing to slice and erode through surrounding nerves, muscles, and internal organs.
So, what is a vagina worth?
The medical industry makes a lot of money from women’s vaginas. Whether it’s a pelvic mesh implant, a birth control device like Essure, or cosmetic laser treatments for vaginal “rejuvenation,” this female organ has been completely monetized.
California has traditionally led the way in protecting people from corporate greed. If California acts to halt these mesh surgeries, other states will follow.
Let this be a warning to all the doctors continuing to hurt women by implanting this mesh into their vaginas. Stop putting mesh in women’s vaginas – the jig is up. It serves no purpose. It makes money – a lot of money – but is not necessary.
Halt mesh use for OB-GYN procedures in the vagina IMMEDIATELY like they have done in the UK, or ban it like they have in Scotland, Australia and Canada.
Make it mandatory to create a registry of pelvic mesh implants so women can find information on the product used in them and whether it was withdrawn. You can’t force a national registry, Governor Brown, but you can create one for California.
It’s time to create a program that will help train pelvic surgeons in mesh removal. Perhaps, within one of the state’s great teaching hospitals or by funding a surgical clinic created exclusively for mesh removal. We have one of the best removal experts in the country right in our state, Dr. Tom Margolis. There are other experts, like Dr. Dionysios Veronikis, M.D., in St. Louis, Missouri, who have dedicated their entire practice to helping remove vaginal mesh. We need more trained surgeons for this endeavor. Let’s get programs in place and doctors involved to help.
And women, don’t let mesh be put in your vaginas. It’s your body and your right to say no to mesh. Your voice is imperative in this battle and if you don’t speak up, it will never change.
Governor, stop letting mesh makers write off hundreds of millions of dollars for lawsuit fees and inadequate, meaningless settlements. You should ask the corporations to put those finds directly into repairing the damage they caused.
Use this time you have left in office to help California women. Do something unique. Something truly Californian and take a stand against vaginal mesh.
As one of your last official acts, won’t you please show the rest of the country that California is still the first in protecting women’s health and halt vaginal mesh surgery in this state immediately? You were a trailblazer for women’s rights in the State of California when you took office in 1975. Now that you are leaving office, please don’t let women’s rights in California go back to where they were in 1974. Let your legacy be one that protects the women and their husbands in this state who are desperately looking to you for help.
In the midst of a problem riddled with layers of political and corporate influence, as well as corporate and individual greed, surprisingly, there is one simple solution: HALT VAGINAL MESH IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.
Governor, please do not abandon us on this issue just because of term limits and your leaving office.
Scotland, Canada, Australia and the UK have already banned, halted, or restricted mesh. What about the USA?
And for that matter, where are you on the issue of vaginal mesh Gavin, Jackie and Kamala? It was California women and their families who helped get each of you elected and it will be those same California women and their families who will vote to replace you as well if you don’t protect them.
Has any political party learned anything from the last election, or at the very least, from the most recent events in Washington?
Make no mistake – the next elections will be unlike any other in the history of the United States. Women will control the deciding votes and women will be the ones who decide who has the privilege to represent them.
Governor Brown, if you don’t know where to start, we have many victims and their families who can bring you up to speed very quickly, and it may not be a bad idea to reach out to your old friend Linda Ronstadt to ask for an assist. There was a time when you both rocked California in women’s rights. It’s been more than 30 years since your first term, but you still have time to fix this. Barbaric moneymakers like mesh are hard to understand, and even harder to justify – so don’t.
Jerry, do the right thing. Make women’s health care in California great again. Halt vaginal mesh immediately.