Faulty implant recipients asked to sign 'outrageous' legal waiver
IRISH women who received faulty PIP breast implants in operations carried out by the Hospital Group are being asked to sign away their right to take legal action if they want to avail of free removal or cut-price replacements offered by the company.
As well as waiving their right to legal redress, women have to make a declaration to the Hospital Group pledging not to talk to the media.
More than 1,500 Irish women received controversial Poly Implant Prothese breast implants, though most of the procedures in this country were carried out by the Harley Medical Group.
The Hospital Group stopped using PIP implants in 2009 but, after the controversy broke, the group offered free removal of PIP implants to women who had received them from the company between 2001 and 2009.
It has also offered the same patients implant replacements at a subsidised price of £1,500 (€1,790) if Irish women are willing to travel to the UK for the corrective procedure or €3,000 if the operation takes place in the Republic. They are also offered a discount on upgraded "lifetime" implants for about €4,000, the Sunday Independent has learned.
But as part of the deal, women are requested to sign a "Patient Agreement Form" which effectively waives their right to legal redress or to talk to the press.
The form states: "I agree that my acceptance of such services shall stand in full and final settlement of any claims whatsoever."
The form also states: "Upon acceptance of such services I agree to discontinue any or all actions I may have, or as may be, commenced against THMG Ltd (The Hospital Medical Group) and/or the surgeons in relation to my PIP implant surgery.''
But Cork solicitor John McCarthy, who is representing more than 50 women who received faulty implants, described the legal waiver form as "outrageous".
"We have clients who have also been faced with demands from the Hospital Group which are similar to those made of UK women. While I haven't seen the English documentation, the so-called "replacement agreement" which Irish women are being asked to sign is outrageous," he told the Sunday Independent.
Mr McCarthy said that taken at face value, the document constitutes an acknowledgement that the Hospital Group has been entirely blameless for every aspect of its previous treatment of the patient who signs it.
"Leaving aside the whole issue of PIP implants, if a woman's cosmetic surgery had been performed negligently and she then signed this document to get her PIP implants replaced, she could find herself with serious obstacles in seeking compensation for the clinical negligence which she had been subjected to.
"We believe that if a document of this nature was procured from a woman in circumstances where she was psychologically overwhelmed and under financial pressure, there's a strong argument that the waiver could be legally set aside on the basis that it was extracted under duress. However, we are definitely of the view that, if at all possible, women should not sign these documents," he said.