Protesters gathered outside of Leinster House today to call for the immediate suspension of the use of transvaginal mesh and the “using of women of Ireland as guinea pigs and ignoring their suffering”.
The protest was in response to the cancellation of a meeting between Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Chief Medical Officer and members of Mesh Survivors Ireland. The meeting was originally scheduled for today, but cancelled on Tuesday and has been rescheduled for June 6.
Transvaginal mesh is used to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary continence (SUI), two conditions often experienced by women after a hysterectomy, menopause or childbirth. HSE figures show that around 2,000 of these apparatuses were implanted in 2015 alone with the exclusion of privately-conducted procedures.
In November, Minister Harris asked Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan to investigate the concerns around the use of mesh implants, but the procedure is still allowed in Ireland.
Solicitor and organiser of the Mesh Survivors Ireland group, Melanie Power has launched the national campaign to suspend the usage of pelvic mesh until the claims of mesh-related suffering can be investigated.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Power said: “Women desperately need to be aware of the damaging side-effects others are feeling as a result of these devices.”
“Women are in excruciating pain and can’t carry on with their lives. There are women who can’t get out of bed in the morning without morphine, it’s just horrendous.”
Over 300 women have joined Mesh Survivors Ireland since its creation and have shared experiences of infection, bowel perforation, bladder perforation, erosion of vaginal tissues and unexplained pain.
Josephine Kilroy, a member of the group, has spent over 288 days in hospital since August 2017 following “unbearable pains” in her stomach and bowel.
Ms Kilroy had the transvaginal mesh inserted in November 2007 and began to develop strong pain in the area in 2010. Between 2010 and 2017 she would visit the hospital five to six times a year for extended period to receive treatment to manage the pain, but has been permanently situated in University College Hospital in Galway since September 2017.
“I haven’t seen my home in 288 days,” Ms Kilroy told Independent.ie. “My mother died in February and I was in so much pain I couldn’t even make it to the funeral, it was heart-breaking.”
“I had my own business for 24 years, worked part time, had a lovely home, and I just feel like I lost everything to this pain.”
In the UK, the NHS have confirmed that 3,000 women have had their mesh removed as a result of the symptoms caused. A warning was issued in the US stating that the transvaginal insertion exposes patients to a greater risk compared to traditional non mesh repair.
Independent.ie reached out the HSE for contact, but has not received a response at this time.
“I just want the HSE to acknowledge the pain and suffering we have gone through, I feel as though we’ve all been let town and we deserve to be treated like people,” said Ms Kilroy.