Victims Owed Compensation for Mesh and Sodium Valproate Scandal

Victims Owed Compensation for Mesh and Sodium Valproate Scandal
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam Updated: In: Medical Negligence

In a recent statement, Henrietta Hughes, England’s patient safety commissioner, calls for urgent financial help for victims of the mesh and sodium valproate scandal. The statement comes after a recent review highlights two medical scandals. First, families of children have been left disabled after the use of an epilepsy drug and secondly, high numbers of women have been injured by pelvic mesh implants. The review found that lives had been ruined due to concerns about some treatments not being listed to.

Minsters are stating they will consider and respond to the recommendations.

Dr Hughes is responsible for looking into the scandals surrounding the drug sodium valproate and pelvic mesh implants. She states: “These families weren’t listened to by a system that really turned its back and fobbed them off with information which led to them not only being harmed, but thousands of others being harmed.”

Read our previous articles about the mesh and sodium valproate scandal.

What is Sodium Valproate?

Sodium valproate is an effective medication used for epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

However, if the drug is taken during pregnancy, it can cause major birth defects. For decades women were not properly warned of these risks.

As a result, an estimated 20,000 children were exposed to the drug while in the womb and many live with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

The government now states that the drug should not be given to women or girls of childbearing age, except in special circumstances.

Despite this restriction, currently about three babies a month are born with developmental disorders and physical abnormalities after foetal exposure to the drug.

What is Pelvic Mesh?

For many years, pelvic mesh was considered the standard treatment for incontinence and prolapse in women.

However, the net-like implant can erode and harden. As a result, it can cut through tissue and cause serious pain.

Due to the pelvic mesh, thousands of women have experienced life-changing complications such as losing their mobility, relationships, and jobs.

After receiving the pelvic mesh, many women were left in permanent pain, unable to walk, work of have sex.

Mesh and Sodium Valproate Scandal: Calls for Compensation and Public Inquiry

The dangers of valproate medicines are not new knowledge. In fact, scientific papers go back as early as the 1980s suggesting valproate medicines are dangerous for developing babies. However, warnings about the potential effects were not added to some packaging until as late as 2016.

Many of the affected families have been campaigning for decades to raise awareness of the potential effects of the drug, with calls for compensation and a public inquiry.

As a result, the government has asked Dr Hughes to look into a compensation scheme for those affected by the mesh and sodium valproate scandal.

Figures suggest that there were 127,000 mesh implants to treat incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) between April 2008 and March 2017. However, campaigners believe this figure to be much higher.

Dr Hughes recommends initial payments of £100,000 to be made out to victims of the sodium valproate scandal and £20,000 to women injured by mesh implants.

These payments should be followed up by further payments for some as well as some non-financial assistance to victims and their families, Dr Hughes said.

“Bigger than Thalidomide”

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Hughes stated that she believed the sodium valproate scandal to be “bigger than thalidomide.” The thalidomide scandal resulted in severe birth defects caused by a morning-sickness drug which was licenced in the 1950s in the UK.

“I’ve heard so many heart-breaking stories about the problems they’re having in terms of getting access to the medical care that they need, but also the impact that it’s had on the parents who have had to give up their work, give up their businesses and stay at home and care for their children,” Dr Hughes said.

Many of those born with disabilities, known as foetal valproate syndrome, had been unable to work or look after themselves as adults.

Dr Hughes states that a redress scheme was a question of justice, for families who had “been fighting for years or even decades.” She adds, that failing to help the victims of the scandal would show “a callous disregard for the pain and suffering” of those harmed.

Failings in the Health System

The initial review carried out in 2020, concluded that the suffering caused by the pelvic mesh was entirely avoidable. It adds that suffering caused was down to failings in the healthcare system and not listening to the families’ warnings.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told BBC Breakfast that the government had “listened to women who have gone through this horrific ordeal”.

She said Dr Hughes’ report was being looked at by ministers “very, very carefully” and the government will require some time to come forward with some “meaningful recommendations and proposals” in response to both scandals.

What to Do if You are a Victim of the Mesh and Sodium Valproate Scandal?

If you or someone you know has been affected by the mesh and sodium valproate scandal, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Understanding your rights and options can be overwhelming, and a medical negligence solicitor can guide you through the process. Our team of solicitors can assess your individual situation, explain your potential legal claims, and help you navigate the complexities of seeking compensation. Remember, time limits may apply, so don’t delay in getting legal advice.

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