Jean-Claude Mas, the egregious owner of the now defunct PIP Implants, is currently on trial for fraud charges resulting from the use of industrial (as opposed to medical) grade silicone in the company's breast implants. By some accounts, upwards of 300,000 women in 65 countries have been affected by the faulty implants.  In France alone, some 5,000 women have registered as plaintiffs in the case, making it one of the country's biggest trials.

There is no doubt that substandard materials were used in the implants?Mas has even readily admitted to that. What is astounding, however, is his ability to maintain his innocence in the face of such a revelation. While the ethics of a person who can knowingly manufacture medical devices with substandard materials are obviously questionable, I can?t help but wonder how this case might play out differently if the medical device in question was one used in life-saving procedures, as opposed to the largely elective breast augmentation procedures. While the implants in question have not been causally linked to breast cancer or other disease, there have been anecdotal accounts of painful side effects.  On top of that, the women with the implants have had to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety?some likening the implants to ticking time bombs.
 

What is striking about this case, which has affected hundreds of thousands of women around the world, is the potential outcome. Indeed, the maximum jail sentence for Mas and the other executives on trial is a paltry 5 years in prison.  To me, such a lenient sentence suggests that the true scope of the crime is not being recognized?that somehow, because the implants were used mostly in breast augmentation procedures, that the women should accept their fate.  As one plaintiff said, ?We're waiting to be recognised as victims, to face the person who has destroyed our lives, we need recognition and justice to be able to start again and rebuild ourselves." It will be very interesting to see how this trial plays out over the coming weeks, and whether they obtain this recognition. 

Six healthcare policy questions hanging in the balance as the United States votes

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