Mesh implant problem ‘bigger than Thalidomide’

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MPs will debate the risks associated with mesh implants after thousands of women said the device has perforated organs, caused chronic pain and left them unable to work or have sex.

The Labour Party has announced its backing a call for a public inquiry into the mesh procedures and called for products to be stopped immediately in England while this is ongoing.

Around 15,000 women every year have a vaginal mesh procedure which is used to treat stress urinary incontinence and involves inserting a plastic tape through the vagina and around the urethra to support the bladder.

The official complication rate for mesh procedures is 1-3% yet latest hospital figures obtained by Sky News show that it’s higher, with almost 10% of women suffering adverse effects.

Urogynaecologist Sohier Elneil says one of the key problems with mesh is that it can change once inside the body. It can become brittle, erode and slice through organs like the bladder.

:: I was a ‘physical wreck’ after vaginal mesh implant

“It’s a huge problem,” Dr Elneil said.

“I think it’s bigger than Thalidomide, because the numbers of those affected are much more.

“And if we look at the problem globally then it’s worse than the metal-on-metal hips and the PIP scandal as well.”

Dr Elneil is one of few surgeons trained to remove mesh implants, a highly dangerous operation as the implants are designed to be permanent.

She says she used to see one or two women a month but now treats up to eight every week.

She said: “In England there’s been this feeling that the number of women affected wasn’t that great but not everyone was submitting their data, so there was very minimal information to make a decision on.

“Now with the latest reports, quite clearly this is a game changer and the procedure needs to be re-evaluated.”

Video:Mesh ‘lawsuits could be bigger than Thalidomide’

Kath Sansom had a mesh implant fitted to treat mild incontinence caused by childbirth.

After suffering chronic pain, she started a campaign Sling the Mesh to provide support for others and call for the suspension of mesh implants to bring England in line with Scotland, where they were suspended in 2014.

The campaign group now has more than 3,000 members.

She said: “The medical professionals are all very good at denying there’s a problem or saying you are a mystery patient.

“There is also an element of misogyny whereby your pain is belittled because, to look at us women, none of us look ill or in pain.

“The damage is hidden.

“This makes it easier to be shuffled off into a corner and ignored.”

As Sky News first reported two years ago, for many patients the procedure can be quick and successful but thousands have suffered debilitating conditions, are on daily medication and some now struggle to walk.

But there’s another issue Ms Sansom says is rarely discussed – the effect mesh has on a woman’s sex life. For hundreds of women they say the pain they suffer makes having sexual intercourse impossible.

She said: “The impact on women is so devastating.

“It’s such a personal thing and anyone in a healthy relationship will want an intimate relationship and when that is taken away it robs them of a massive part of being a couple and puts a huge strain on relationships and family life.

“It’s so cruel.”

Video:Legal action for vaginal mesh sufferers

NHS England and various clinical bodies, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, maintain that, for many patients, mesh is a safe and effective option that greatly helps with conditions which can be distressing for those affected.

They support the view of the official regulator of mesh, the Medicines and Healthcare products and Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which says there’s not enough evidence to justify a ban.

The MHRA’s director of devices John Wilkinson said: “There is no regulatory reason to take the product off the market because if it is used in the right circumstances with the right patients appropriately consented and aware of the risks then we have no evidence that the product should be taken off the market.”

Vaginal mesh implants are, however, the subject of huge litigation. Sky News has learnt that across the world more than 55,000 women are suing one manufacturer of mesh, Johnson and Johnson.

In the UK, pressure is also mounting, with 400 women taking legal action against the pharmaceutical giant in what lawyers say could become the biggest medical case in UK history.

In a statement, Ethicon, the sister company of Johnson and Johnson which makes mesh products in the UK, said: “Ethicon is confident in the positive impact our pelvic mesh products have had on the vast majority of women who have chosen this treatment option.

“We are confident the evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of its pelvic mesh products.”

I was ‘physical wreck’ after mesh implant

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I set up the support page Sling the Mesh on Facebook two years ago, in June 2015, just 10 weeks after I had a mesh implant to treat incontinence from childbirth.

The pain in my legs and feet was so intense, along with burning pains in my vagina – like being cut with a cheese wire – that I knew something was terribly wrong.

When I told my surgeon of the pain I was suffering I was ignored. He told me I must have a slipped disc.

I had walked into the operating theatre as one of the fittest mothers in her 40s you could wish to meet – a keen high board diver, mountain biker and boxer – and emerged a physical wreck.

When I searched online I discovered women worldwide suffering similar problems. All were being ignored, not only by their surgeons but also by the media.

Image:The vaginal mesh that was fitted to tens of thousands of women, leading some to suffer pain

It probably needed a journalist to be mesh injured to provide the final media push needed for the issue to get to Westminster.

That journalist just happened to be me – a mum-of-two living in a small Fenland town more used to writing stories about animal rescues or council planning agendas than being suddenly caught up in what some medical professionals describe as the biggest health scandal of our time.

:: Mesh implant problem ‘bigger than Thalidomide’

The mesh fight began in Britain in 2007 with TVT Mum, Meshies United, TVT Info, Welsh Mesh Survivors and Scottish Mesh Survivors – the latter achieving so much with a suspension of the plastic pelvic implants in Scottish Parliament in 2014 and a subsequent independent inquiry into its safety.

Many other groups globally have fought for years too, all with one common goal – to stop others suffering as we have done.

Image:Kath Samson founded the campaign group ‘Sling the Mesh’

Over and again we have told our stories. That is what we were prepared to do, as it was the only way to make people sit up and take notice, to realise the scale of personal tragedy that mesh can cause when it goes wrong.

Harry Evans, editor of the Sunday Times when the Thalidomide scandal broke in the 60s and 70s, said you must tell a story over and over until people get it. He ran Thalidomide articles every week for months until finally everybody realised what a huge scandal it was.

And so it is with mesh. Globally, men and women injured by both pelvic and hernia mesh implants have told their stories. And finally people get it.

Now the women and men in Sling the Mesh have helped trigger a debate in Parliament and we are calling for mesh procedures to be stopped immediately.

When undergoing this surgery it is Russian roulette as to whether it will be successful or not. We hope that the British government will agree this is a risk not worth taking with a woman’s health.

Super-strong cannabis prompts legalisation calls

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A mental health crisis caused by super-strength cannabis is being exacerbated by Government policy putting criminalisation ahead of young people’s wellbeing, a new report claims.

The study, by drugs think tank Volteface and researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University and King’s College London, found that high-potency cannabis has become almost ubiquitous on the streets.

At the same time mental health referrals linked to the drug have soared, and police prosecutions for possession have halved in the last 10 years.

The authors say the combination is putting young people’s mental health at risk, and they call for the creation of a tightly controlled legal market in cannabis that would enable the harmful effects of new strains to be managed.

Steve Moore of Volteface told Sky News leaving cannabis to the illicit market had incentivised growers and dealers to develop more potent strains.

“In a regulated market we could provide a range of options, and we could give really clear harm reduction messages,” he said.

“A really good example is how we have alcohol regulation at the moment.

“You have 5%, 13%, 40% alcohol, but you get the choice and the knowledge and the information.

“With cannabis that doesn’t exist at all.

“And because we can’t enforce it, we can’t control it, and the police haven’t got the resources we need to look for other models to make it work.”

Cannabis potency is determined by the relative quantities of two chemicals: the psychoactive agent THC, which causes the cannabis high and is associated with addiction and side effects, and CBD, a protective agent that mitigates against its effects.

In more than 50 samples bought in Manchester and tested by researchers, every one had high levels of THC, around 15-20%, and negligible CBD content, meeting the definition of high-potency street cannabis.

Teenagers told researchers it was easier to obtain than alcohol and cigarettes, while frontline mental health services reported a dramatic increase in referrals from cannabis users.

Mental health problems associated with the drug occur on a spectrum, with anxiety at the lower end and extreme and paranoia drug-induced psychosis, which can be irreversible, at the other.

Jodie Beckett, a former nurse who now works with recovering addicts and other vulnerable people in Wolverhampton, told Sky News cannabis addiction had a major impact on her life.

“At the beginning it was all a bit of fun, but once it becomes a daily habit and you’re looking for it to feel normal it becomes a problem with relationships.

“You take it to feel normal but it makes you abnormal.”

She was eventually struck off as a nurse.

“It came to a point where I was actually diagnosed with a drug-induced, mental health problem which I still have to take medication for today and I probably will for the rest of my life.

“Looking back at it, if I knew anyone tempted to or being offered it, I’d say ‘no don’t touch it’, because it’s the gateway to hell.”

Professor Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “I have no doubt that people presenting for cannabis-induced psychosis are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of people adversely affected by heavy cannabis use.”

The police defended their enforcement policy.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for cannabis, Commander Simon Bray said: “Police forces are committed to reducing the harms caused by drugs and we would remind people that these substances are controlled because they have been shown to be harmful.

“It is often not possible to know how dangerous a drug will be, or even what it contains – but all drugs can cause significant harm.

“We will continue to work closely with partner agencies and will use our enforcement powers appropriately and robustly, to deal with the impacts of illicit drug crime.”

Labour woos Tory rebels on universal credit vote

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Labour is wooing potential rebel Conservative MPs in a bid to force a Government defeat in the Commons on a motion to pause the roll out of universal credit.

Theresa May has been forced to meet the rebel leaders in 10 Downing Street in a bid to head off a revolt which could lead to a damaging defeat for the Government.

Before the Commons debate, the Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke faces an uncomfortable grilling by a committee of MPs chaired by the former Labour welfare minister Frank Field.

Labour and the Conservative rebels claim universal credit is pushing people further into debt, rent arrears and even evictions and that one in four claimants are having to wait over six weeks to receive any funds.

“The Government has so far not listened to MPs’ concerns about the mounting issues with their flagship social security programme,” said the shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abraham.

“We must stand together to make our voices heard.

“I urge Conservative MPs to vote with their conscience and support our motion to pause the roll out of Universal Credit.”

Video:Universal Credit: Britain On The Breadline

But Mr Gauke, writing in The Sun newspaper, appears defiant and is so far resisting pressure to make further concessions to help people having to wait six weeks for their first payment.

“We understand that for some people, that’s a big change to how they manage their household budgets and their rent,” he writes. “That’s why we have extensive personalised support for people who need extra help.

“No one in need should be left without money while they wait for their first payment.”

Ahead of Mr Gauke’s appearance before the Work and Pensions Select Commmittee, Mr Field has hit out at his answers to a series of questions the committee asked him about universal credit.

“I am pleased, finally, to receive an answer to some of our questions,” said Mr Field. “I am alarmed, however, by the response.

“The department has no idea about the operation of its flagship policy. For example, they do not know how many people are waiting eight, 10, 12 weeks for payment, or why.

“They don’t and can’t know if it’s going right or wrong. It beggars belief that they decided to press ahead on this collision course totally in the dark.”

When it comes to the Commons debate later, Labour MPs fear the Government may repeat its tactics in two votes on Labour motions last month, on public sector pay and tuition fees, when it ordered its MPs not to vote.

The move prompted a huge row and the granting of an emergency debate by the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, amid allegations that the Government’s actions were an affront to democracy.

Speaking during the emergency debate, the Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said: “We will look, case by case, at Opposition motions and make decisions accordingly.”

Trump: Dead soldier ‘knew what he signed up for’

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Donald Trump is in hot water again after reportedly telling the wife of a soldier killed in action that “he knew what he signed up for”.

Sgt La David Johnson, a Special Forces soldier, was among four US soldiers who were killed serving in Niger.

US President Mr Trump phoned Sgt Johnson’s pregnant widow Myeshia Johnson and spoke to her for about five minutes, according to ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10 in Miami.

The conversation happened shortly before Mrs Johnson and the couple’s two children – a two-year-old son and six-year-old daughter – arrived at the airport to meet her husband’s coffin.

With her was Frederica Wilson, a Democrat congresswoman for Florida.

Video:His widow grieves as Sgt Johnson comes home

Ms Wilson told WPLG that Mr Trump had said: “(Sgt Johnson) knew what he signed up for…but when it happens it hurts anyway.”

She later tweeted: “Sgt La David Johnson is a hero.

“(Donald Trump) does not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States.”

A former Walmart employee, Sgt Johnson enlisted in January 2014 and defied the odds to become a decorated member of the prestigious 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

But the 25-year-old was killed on 4 October after his group was ambushed by more than 50 Islamist militants.

He was initially left behind during the evacuation and it was nearly two days later that his body was retrieved.

Mr Trump was playing golf as Sgt Johnson’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on 7 October.

Image:Donald Trump has been criticised for what he said to an army widow

Mr Trump’s phone conversation with Mrs Johnson comes just days after he was criticised for saying previous presidents had not called families of fallen services personnel.

He told NBC: “President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t.

“I don’t know, that’s what I was told.

“All I can do, all I can do is ask my generals.

“Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. And some presidents didn’t do anything.

“But I like the combination of, I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.”

As controversial as his comments were, some critics say he made them to distract attention from what happened to the four soldiers in Niger, which has not yet been fully explained.

The others killed in the Niger attack were Staff Sgt Bryan C. Black, 35, of Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Ohio, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Georgia.

The White House said Mr Trump had called all four families involved and “offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their families’ extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten”.

Game of Thrones star accuses Harvey Weinstein

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Game of Thrones star Lena Headey has claimed Harvey Weinstein angrily marched her out of a hotel after she rejected his advances.

The British actress posted a series of tweets in which she detailed meetings between the two where the Hollywood mogul allegedly made “suggestive” comments towards her and became enraged after she rejected his advances.

It comes as Weinstein has resigned from the board of The Weinstein Company – the film studio he co-founded in 2005.

The 65-year-old reportedly owns an approximate 20% stake of the company, which is in talks with Colony Capital over a potential buyout.

Image:Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, said she first met Weinstein at the Venice Film Festival.

She wrote: “Harvey asked me to take a walk down to the water, I walked down with him and he stopped and made some suggestive comment, a gesture, I just laughed it off, I was genuinely shocked.

“I said something like, oh come on mate?! It’d be like kissing my dad!”

Headey said in another meeting at a Los Angeles hotel about potential work, the pair talked about films before the producer turned his attention to the “state of my love life”.

Image:Harvey Weinstein has denied the allegations against him

“I shifted the conversation back to something less personal,” Headey wrote.

She claimed Harvey Weinstein then asked her up to his room to give her a film script.

“We walked to the lift and the energy shifted, my whole body went into high alert, the lift was going up and I said to Harvey, I’m not interested in anything other than work, please don’t think I got in here with you for any other reason, nothing is going to happen,” said Headey.

“I had such a strong sense of don’t come near me.”

The actress said Weinstein was “silent” and “furious” as they walked towards his room.

She said: “His hand was on my back, he was marching me forward, not a word, I felt completely powerless, he tried his key card and it didn’t work, then he got really angry.

“He walked me back to the lift, through the hotel to the valet, by grabbing and holding tightly to the back of my arm, he paid for my car and whispered in my ear, don’t tell anyone about this, not your manager, not your agent.

Video:Special report: Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace

“I got into my car and I cried.”

A series of women – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Ashley Judd – have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment.

The producer has “unequivocally denied” the claims against him.

China’s Communist Party congress begins

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China’s largest¬†political event, the twice-a-decade Communist Party congress, has started¬†in Beijing.

The summit, under tight security, determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term.

Current Chinese president and Party leader Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as party chief for another five years at the gathering.

It would extend the role he has held since 2012.

Image:President Xi acknowledged tough economic challenges ahead

Mr Xi began his speech to 2000 delegates by trumpeting his nation’s prospects as bright – but made a rare acknowledgement of severe economic challenges ahead.

Other Chinese leaders have regularly warned that China’s economic growth faces “downward pressure” since the 2008 financial crisis.

:: China’s Xi Jinping bids to consolidate power at Communist Party congress

But Mr Xi’s comments were unusual in a keynote speech meant to highlight the party’s confidence and long-range vision.

Video:China’s Xi bids to consolidate power

Among the serious issues Mr Xi said were insufficiently addressed were a widening income gap and problems in employment.

Mr Xi also hailed the party’s tightened grip over domestic security, saying that social stability had been maintained and national security strengthened.

The congress is expected to end next week.

Death toll rises to 40 in California fires

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Forty people are now dead in what have become the deadliest and most destructive fires in California’s history.

The fires have consumed nearly 214,000 acres north of San Francisco, with the state’s governor Jerry Brown describing the scene as a “horror that no one could have imagined”.

He said: “This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced.

“The devastation is just unbelievable.”

The victims were aged between 14 and 100, most of them elderly.

Many of them were thought to have died between late 8 October and early 9 October, when the fires emerged and took many people by surprise.

There are still around 300 people missing but authorities are confident many of these will be found alive.

Sonoma County accounted for 22 of the fatalities and more than 200 of the missing.

Image:The stairs are all that remain of a home destroyed by the Atlas Fire in Napa

A week after the fires began, 5,700 homes and businesses have been destroyed.

Around 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, many of them being sheltered in churches, according to local media.

Tim Halbur lost his parents LeRoy and Donna, both 80, when they tried to flee their Santa Rosa home last week.

Both were well-known community volunteers and had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

He said: “The winds came up pretty quickly, it was all countryside behind them.

“My mom was found in the car in the garage, my dad was somewhere on the driveway. He probably had gotten her into the car and he went outside to check on conditions.”

One of the youngest victims was Kai Shepherd, a 14-year-old killed by the flames as he and his family tried to escape, first in their cars and then apparently on foot.

A neighbour found their two charred cars, then Kai’s mother, father and 17-year-old sister, all badly burned but alive. Kai was found too but he did not survive.

Image:Firefighters are working 24 hours on, 24 hours off as they try to contain the fires

At least a dozen of the famous wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County have been ruined, something that will have a long-term effect on the region’s important tourism industry.

More than 10,000 firefighters, including many from outside the state, have been battling the 16 major fires, with the help of air tankers and 70 helicopters.

The forecast is for high temperatures and dry conditions to continue through the weekend but winds are expected to weaken, which could help firefighters.

Image:An aerial view shows the burned properties in Santa Rosa

The Cascade Fire, about 80 miles from Santa Rosa, was 81% contained on Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

But the much larger Atlas Fire, which now covers more than 50,000 acres northeast of Napa, is just 45% contained.

US President Donald Trump has so far said nothing about the fires on his favoured medium, Twitter. His tweets on Saturday were mainly about his son’s appearance on Fox News and his healthcare plans.

Girl, 8, dies in fall on cruise ship in Miami

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An eight-year-old girl has died after falling from an upper deck into the lobby of a cruise ship docked in Miami.

The youngster is thought to have fallen between 25ft and 50ft (between 7.5m and 15m) from the interior atrium of the Carnival Glory on Saturday morning.

The ship, operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, had recently arrived in PortMiami, Dodge Island, just off shore from mainland Florida and east of Miami Beach, at the time.

A witness, Raymond Kassim, told Fox News affiliate 7News Miami he heard someone cry out.

“You heard ‘Oh, my baby, oh, my baby’, and when you looked, she was down at the bottom,” he said.

Image:The embarkation point for cruise ships docked at PortMiami

“It happened so fast. She just fell over.”

Passengers described chaotic scenes as those in the ship’s atrium realised what had happened.

On board emergency responders attended the scene and attempted to save her life.

Emergency medical technician Bob Dorr, who was among the first to try to save the girl, said: “She had severe injuries.

“I started doing CPR until the doctor showed up, and then the doctor took over.”

Image:Cruise ships docked at PortMiami

The girl was taken in a critical condition to the Ryder Trauma Centre, about three miles away from the port, but she died.

7News interviewed a relative of her family at the hospital, named only as Zion, who said she was only out of sight for a few seconds when the tragedy happened.

The family are understood to be from The Bahamas and had just completed a seven-day cruise.

A statement from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, a subsidiary of US-British Carnival Corporation & PLC, to 7News said: “Our most heartfelt condolences are with the family at this very difficult time.”

Police are investigating.