Plea to Irvine over legal aid for breast implant woman

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The Independent Online
British plastic surgeons have written to the Lord Chancellor complaining about legal aid being given to a woman who says her baby suffered as a result of her being given a silicone breast implant.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons say there is no medical proof that silicone makes people ill.

It wants the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, to reconsider the decision to allow Mary Bowler limited legal aid to look at the possibility of suing the manufacturers.

Mrs Bowler, 26, of North Walsham, Norfolk, alleges her daughter's stomach cramps, skin problems and food allergies are a result of silicone poisoning. She had a single implant for medical reasons in January 1993, and fed Danielle for three days after she was born 21 months ago.

Campaigners fighting to ban silicone breast implants welcomed the move and said other mothers had been inspired to apply for legal aid after making similar claims. The letter to Lord Irvine warns of pandering to "junk science" and says doctors are dismayed.

It continues: "It is appalling that the people responsible for this decision did not ask whether there is any evidence ...

"There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that silicone causes systemic disease in women who have had implants, nor that it causes problems with their babies. In fact, Toronto-based research that has been accepted for publication indicates that silicone levels in commercial infant formulas are much higher than in the breast milk of women with implants. We are therefore asking you to reconsider the Legal Aid Board's decision.

We hope that the scientific and legal communities in the UK will be alerted to the threat junk science imposes on society and will move quickly to control it." They warn that the ultimate consequence may be a shortage of devices such as pacemakers and artificial joints.

The letter is signed by Bradford University's Professor David Sharp, the president of the association, and four American and Canadian experts in the field.

About 5,000 women in the UK have breast implants every year, 3,000 of them with silicone gel implants. Up to 40 per cent of operations come after a mastectomy and the rest are cosmetic. Previous studies have shown so far that no evidence of a link has been found between implants and illness.