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A woman took her own life following “botched” mesh-implant surgery

Dec 9, 2019 by Hamza Sheraz.

Lucinda Methuen-Campbell’s death shows more pertinently than ever that women’s healthcare is in need of urgent reform, says Zoë Beaty.

A woman died by suicide due to excruciating pain she experienced following surgery to insert mesh implants, an inquest into her death has heard. Lucinda Methuen-Campbell had also learned during recovery that her surgeon had removed her ovaries without her consent during the operation “because they were in the way”. She was 58 when she died.

Methuen-Campbell had previously told the BBC in an interview that, following her 2016 operation, carried out by Dr Anthony Dixon at The Spire Hospital in Bristol, she felt her life had been ruined.

“I said, ‘why did you remove them?’ and he just said ‘they were in the way’.”

Methuen-Campbell, from Swansea, had attended the private hospital in the hope that a mesh implant would solve problems she was experiencing with her womb and bowels. Yet the operation only left her in increasingly chronic pain – and follow-up surgery only worsened her condition. Upon taking her own life, she left a note addressed to her 19-year-old son. Her death was recorded by Swansea assistant coroner Aled Gruffydd as suicide. “The operation on Mrs Methuen-Campbell was unsuccessful and made her pain worse, and it affected her mental health,” Gruffydd said.

Methuen-Campbell was one of thousands of UK women – and hundreds of thousands of women around the world – to speak out about terrible, often life-changing experiences of having mesh-implant surgeries. Operations using mesh implants, typically used to treat prolapsed wombs and incontinence, or hernias, has, in the last year, been at the centre of a global scandal, with an estimated 55,000 women taking action against one mesh manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), around the world. One landmark class-action suit last year – in which a US woman suffering heinous effects of mesh was awarded a record $57m in damages – found that J&J launched the controversial implant without clinical trial and marketed it for five years, despite having learned of its higher failure rate than previous devices. (In England, it’s estimated that one in 15 women will require surgery to remove the mesh due to complications.) Women commonly report that, especially in cases using vaginal mesh implants, the plastic material can shrink and erode once inside the body and it can cut through the flesh walls, causing catastrophic injuries to internal organs. Some are rendered unable to stand or walk, lose part of or all of their bladder or bowel, their sex life and any sense of normalcy.

The mesh affair has not only left painful scars and mutilations on women’s bodies, but also a series of torrid, unanswered questions about just how we view and treat women’s health.

If Methuen-Campbell’s tragic early death is not to be in vain, now those with power to change the status quo must listen

And no case highlights this more pertinently – or urgently – than Methuen-Campbell’s. The harrowing detail that her ovaries were removed without consultation or consent speaks volumes about the care and value we ascribe to women (especially older women) and their bodies. It’s something we see time and time again – in extreme cases, like criminal surgeon Ian Paterson, and the countless reports documenting how women’s pain is consistently discredited, or simply ignored. In many cases, this is dangerous or life-altering. In Methuen-Campbell’s case – and in that of 42-year-old Chrissy Brajcic, who died in December last year due to multiple complications after vaginal mesh surgery – it was fatal.

Yet reports continue to emerge of male surgeons and executives joking that women suffering painful sex following mesh surgery should “try anal instead”, and “bantering” that sex with a woman who has mesh-surgery complications must be “like screwing a wire brush”.

As for Dixon, who operated on Methuen-Campbell, he is now under investigation by the NHS and the General Medical Council (GMC). Restrictions have been placed on his medical licence by the GMC, “including notifying it of all employment and disciplinary procedures and a ban on performing a separate type of bowel surgery”, according to The Times. Dixon has not yet commented on the case, maintaining that there is risk in all operations and that his were done in good faith. A hundred former patients of Dixon are also reportedly taking civil action against him, largely concerning invasive operations for pelvic procedures that left them with life-altering complications. Dr Chris Burton, medical director of North Bristol NHS Trust, which Dixon also worked at, said that Dixon is “not currently providing any clinical services to patients at our hospital”. He added it would be “inappropriate” for the trust to comment on specifics while “investigations are ongoing”. A spokesperson at North Bristol NHS Trust confirmed that position to The Pool today.

Meanwhile, calls will undoubtedly continue to grow for thorough investigations into the use of mesh – and for better, fairer treatment of women’s health. If Methuen-Campbell’s tragic early death is not to be in vain, now those with power to change the status quo must listen.

The Pool has reached out to Dr Anthony Dixon and The Spire Hospital for comment