"I was told that it was the Rolls-Royce of prosthetics"
In the vast arena of the Salle du Parc des Expositions in Marseilles, the trial continued yesterday in the case of the disgraced former breast implant company PIP (Poly Implant Prothèse).
One after another, the women came forward to bear witness against the former PIP president Jean-Claude Mas and four other executives of the company that was based in nearby La Seyne-sur-Mer.
The majority of the women – a representative group of the estimated 400,000 victims worldwide – have already gone through cancer followed by mastectomy. Others have felt the need for a new bust after several births or simply because they were fulfilling a dream for a physical change.
Blond and brunette, tall and short, young and middle-aged, slender and rounded, they all walk up to the witness stand as each of their names are called, passing under the eyes of a riveted public, whose gaze the women must surely feel as they fall on their bodies and even more acutely as they inevitably fall on their busts.
“I was told that it was the Rolls Royce of prosthetics and I was reassured by the fact that they were a French company,” says one witness.
Every woman’s story is different but the pattern is the same: implantation, rupture and leakage, pain, anxiety, consultations, more operations and re-implantation. This is followed by new anxieties in 2010 when they are finally alerted by the health authorities of the dangers of these prosthetics, of their withdrawal from the market and of the recommendations for their complete removal – an operation which, in itself, presents considerable risks (PIP had been using unapproved industrial-grade silicone instead of medical-grade silicon since 2001).“Up to now,” says Christine, “I had accepted everything. It was just bad luck – I was unfortunate to get sick. I was unfortunate enough to have complications linked to the implantation. But now, my anger has exploded. I wasn’t in the realm of hazard or chance, but in the realm of pure deception. And that is unacceptable.”
Christine’s puts her hand on her chest when, addressing the tribunal, she tells of how she has just gone through her fifth operation to remove the prosthesis.
“I didn’t want that operation. But I gave in to pressure from my family, who were afraid for me. And silicon was found in my tissue. Who can say for certain today that in six months time, I won’t have any new complications?”
She turns her head towards the defendants. She heard them explain to the public that they all knew that the silicon used was not the certified one, that they did what they could or that they were under the control of the authority of the founder of PIP Jean-Claude Mas. She heard the other executives who were called to the witness stand evoke a multitude of similar little acts of cowardice, all of which collectively prevented them from quitting or from blowing the whistle. She doesn’t accept any of it.
“When you’re a patient, you hope that, even with with Big Brother or Professor Sunflower (Jean-Claude Mas) watching over you, there are people in the company who are gendarmes or whistle-blowers. You were Quality Assurance Directors, Head of Products, Engineers… you knew and you simply let it all go.”
She also has it in for the “certifiers” who, like her, are also taking a case against PIP:
“To find myself sitting beside you here is just stunning! For us, it seemed to be a self-evident truth that these products were controlled and certified to the nth degree. We rely on the certifiers! And all of a sudden, we discover that the norm is just a case of a company announcing of its own accord that it has been granted certification. The safeguards didn’t work and that is scandalous!”
Christine also heard the testimony of a psychiatrist who spoke about the “prejudice of anxiety” from which victims may be suffering and that he would return to the hearing to evaluate.
She simply says: “I personally don’t suffer from any anxiety syndrome. But I am suffering from a total loss of confidence in what we are told we can ingest or breathe in.”
Before going back to the public gallery, she adds: “I don’t have any hatred, I really don’t. Contempt? Definitely. I’ll leave you with your problems of conscience.”
(Edited from an original article in Le Monde)