The scandal of the fault fake breasts rumbles on. I must admit, I find myself incredibly concerned by it all - that a private company would so casually endanger the lives of so many is quite scary. And while the operation in question is mostly a matter of choice (some might say vanity), that doesn't in any way mitigate this - the women involved still had a right not to have their lives put at risk.
I still don't understand why there's so much hassle in getting this sorted out. As far as I can see, it should be pretty straightforward:
If the clinic that performed the surgery is still around, then any woman who has had the PIP implants should be free to have them removed (and, if desired, replaced) free of charge. There should be no debate over this, and no questions over whether or not there is thought to be any danger. At its most basic, they've been sold faulty goods, a recall should be underway, and so they should be contacting their supplier. And, as I noted before, those suppliers have to carry hefty insurances in case something goes wrong; something has gone wrong, and it's time to act.
The key exception to this is the case where there is an urgent threat to the health of women affected. Because arranging the required surgery privately will take time, the NHS will need to step in to remove the offending implants. It may (or may not) be appropriate for the NHS to also arrange replacements - that's a medical decision I'm not equipped to make, though my inclination would be "not". In any event, there should also be a mechanism for the NHS to get appropriate compensation from those same clinics for cleaning up their mess.
In the case where the clinics are not still around, it falls to the NHS to pick up the pieces. And here, my feeling is that the women affected should be able to have the implants removed if desired. Again, it may or may not be appropriate for them to also have the implants replaced. (In this case, there might be an argument for requiring proof of an actual danger before proceeding... but in general I'm a believer in preventative medicine, which suggests going ahead.)
As I noted in my previous post, if there is any hassle dealing with the clinics, there should be legal recourse to compel them to do the right thing. In cases where the clinics have disappeared, there should be recourse against the shareholders.
Finally, we need to tighten up the regulations to ensure that something like this cannot happen again. Further, we need to track down all those involved in making the switch (from the guy who actually did it, all the way up the chain to the guy who first made the call). They need to be found, prosecuted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
(Incidentally, this failure, in itself, is not an argument against privatisation in the NHS. The argument against privatisation in the NHS is that it's an incredibly stupid idea. But this is a failure of regulation, and could have hit the NHS just as it has private clinics. Indeed, given that not all such surgeries are cosmetic, it is possible that there are some women who have received the offending PIP implants on the NHS.)
#3: "Loving Against the Odds", by Rob Parsons