SILICONE IMPLANTS: Court Panel Finds No Link To Disease
A panel of four scientists charged with sifting through available scientific data on the link between silicone implants and autoimmune disease concluded in a report released yesterday that "scientific evidence has so far failed to show that silicone breast implants cause disease." The New York Times reports that the panel, which took two years to complete its work, was comprised of independent experts in toxicology, rheumatology, epidemiology and immunology. Judge Sam Pointer Jr. of the Federal District Court in Birmingham, AL, "who oversees breast implant lawsuits in the Federal Court," organized the panel two years ago to examine current research on implants and provide videotaped testimony for use in Federal Courts (Kolata, 12/2). The Los Angeles Times reports that the study "appears likely to embolden judges to throw out sketchy plaintiffs' evidence, make it easier for defendants to get cases against them dismissed, and also reduce the dollar amount of settlements offered to women." Indeed, the long anticipated report is expected to determine the admissability of "scientific evidence ... in the cases against Bristol-Myers Squibb, 3M Corp. and Baxter International." The three manufacturers have offered implant recipients settlements, and while the report will not impact the offer, it will likely pressure more women to accept the settlement, rather than pursue litigation. Product liability lawyers indicated that the panel "was the first instance they were aware of where a judge had utilized a court-appointed expert panel to help determine the state of science ... for use in a trial" (Monmaney, 12/2). And the report seems likely to fuel the debate over "so-called junk science" in court cases, which "has resulted in payouts of billions of dollars to settle claims based on flawed science" (Tomkins, Financial Times, 12/2).
More To Come
The New York Times notes that the panel did leave the door open for future scientific studies to establish a link between silicon implants and disease (12/2). Others said the panel only found what the available scientific evidence allows them to find and that more study is needed to definitively answer the question. Dr. Diana Zuckerman of the Institute for Women's Policy Research said, "They conclude what they have to conclude. Based on the published research, you would have to conclude that there's no evidence of illness ... that only tells a little bit of the story." The Washington Post reports that in addition to reviewing numerous studies and documents submitted by both sides of the case, the "panel heard testimony from experts offered by both sides and called its own experts as well" (Schwartz, 12/2). Click www.fjc.gov/BREIMLI T/mdl926.htm to view the report. Click here for past AHL coverage of breast implants.