High Court bins pelvic mesh device appeal

·2-min read

Serena Brejcha sat in Australia's highest court carrying the hopes of 12,000 women on her shoulders.

She gasped and sobbed when judges knocked back Johnson and Johnson's latest bid to overturn a ruling about defective pelvic mesh devices.

She is one of thousands of women who could be eligible for compensation because the medical device manufacturer acted negligently.

It did not disclose the extent of risks posed by the devices designed for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

Surgeons were not told about or aware of the possible consequences including severe and chronic pain.

Many synthetic implants eroded, extruded or caused infection without warning.

"At least 12,000 women have won and I just felt them all on the back of my shoulders," Ms Brejcha said of Friday's ruling.

She never would have agreed to the stress urinary incontinence device if she knew about the risks.

"I was provided with no complications, no warnings about this device. I wasn't told it was made of plastic," the Victorian woman said.

"I developed symptoms pretty much straight away. But as I got older, I become chronically ill to the point I had to give up work in 2018.

"And I wasn't sure what was happening to me."

The High Court refused Johnson and Johnson special leave to appeal on the grounds the bid was unlikely to succeed.

The original 2019 ruling was earlier this year upheld by the Federal Court that awarded three lead litigants damages worth a combined $2.6 million.

More than 11,000 women have registered their interest for the class action led by Shine Lawyers.

"These are women who can't pick up their children and their grandchildren," the firm's Rebecca Jancauskas told reporters in Brisbane.

"These are women who can no longer function in society as they want to. These are women whose intimate relationships have been ruined."

Ms Jancauskas warned it wasn't over because the women's eligibility for compensation still had to be assessed by the Federal Court.

Ms Brejcha has a message for Johnson and Johnson.

"Don't mistake the strength of women as a collective. Honestly, we won't give up," she said.

"One day ... these products will be off the market. And that's our goal because they're horrendous."

Ethicon, the Johnson and Johnson subsidiary that manufactured the devices, said it empathised with all women who experienced medical complications.

"Ethicon believes it acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development and supply of its pelvic mesh products and stress urinary incontinence tape products and appropriately and responsibly communicated the benefits and risks to doctors and patients in Australia," it said.

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