Stem cells, eh? You can’t live without them but they are not always the best things to go meddling around with. One woman recently found out, to her cost, that while medical practitioners are merrily playing god with our basic building blocks, they’re not always entirely sure of what the results will be. The woman (or victim) in this spectacular case of medical negligence had opted for a refreshing approach to her ageing skin, using a technically-not-exactly-illegal stem cell process. Although not-exactly-illegal, the process has not been thoroughly tested. The results were, as is so often the case when you give a scientist access to electricity and body parts, terrifying.
What is that Strange Clacking Sound?
The procedure in question used the woman’s own stem cells, taken from her abdomen during lipo-suction – which were then pumped into her eyelids. The idea was that the tissue manufacturing cells would refresh her skin, creating new tissues in place of the existing ageing ones. Stem cells are the basic components of tissue and they can (and do) grow into all manner of new tissue. Sadly, somebody forgot to mention this to the cells in question. In fact they proceeded to grow merrily, but rather than opting for the boring old skin tissue approach, the cells started to form bone. This would have been all well and good, in the right places, but in the eyelids it was created anything but the desired effect. In addition to a swollen, painful eye, the woman also ‘clacked’ unpleasantly when opening and closing her eyes. It took another cosmetic surgeon, Allan Wu, some six and a half hours to remove the fragments of developing bone. The original procedure had not only taken considerable time but also a sum rumoured to be over $20,000, which the patient/victim is presumably discussing with medical negligence solicitors. Unfortunately, although Wu’s operation was a success, there is no guarantee that the residual stem cells will behave themselves in future and may continue to innovate in the creation of new tissues.
It seems that the cosmetic surgery industry is one of the prime arenas in which medical negligence crops up with alarming frequency and it is often women, although not always, who are at the forefront of this less than perfect medical industry. In 2010 French company Poly Implants Prostheses (PIP) were found to be using industrial grade silicon in their implants. Of course, there should have been a clue in the term ‘industrial grade’, that alerted to the manufacturers to the fact that this type of silicon was not designed for the medical implant process. They had however, been using the silicon since the early part of the century and it’s estimated that 300,000 women had received the implants. The French authorities were quick to act, offering to pay for the removal of the implants in the 30,000 women who had undergone the process in France. In the UK, the NHS had originally stated that removal was not considered necessary, but have subsequently changed this stance and now recommend removal, with those who had surgery on the NHS being offered the procedure free of charge. Although it has been recognised that the implants can and do rupture more frequently than those using medical grade silicon, the actual effects on health are as yet unclear. In the majority of cases the medical community believe that ruptures can cause some discomfort but are unlikely to have further medical implications; however, the advice is now generally to have the implants removed.
While it’s clear that many procedures currently used by medical practitioners and cosmetic surgeons can offer huge benefits – both physical and emotionally – to patients across the globe, it’s also clear that until greater regulation is the norm (in particularly the cosmetic surgery branch of these dark arts) then many patients will continue to prefer the term “victim” and many medical negligence solicitors will continue to offer ‘post-operative’ services.
Bill Jobs is a freelance writer who contributes to a number of financial and legal blogs including Medical negligence solicitors.