French Health System Forced to Replace 30K Breast Implants

PARIS, France—In a move that may affect some adult performers both in the U.S. and in Europe, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand this week ordered his country's national health care system to pay for the replacement of approximately 30,000 breast implants which used materials made by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), after it was learned that the implants contained industrial-grade rather than medical-grade silicone, and that their casings were faulty and prone to rupture or leakage.

"I've always suffered from depression and mental-health problems linked to body image," said an unidentified 48-year-old woman from Normandy. "I earn €1,000 [$1,298] a month in a factory. I couldn't afford breast surgery until my late 40s. But after the implants I felt better, I came off the antidepressants, I was able to face work. Then I find out the implants are poison. The tests say they're still in place but I'm having them removed anyway. I'm terrified they'll rupture or explode at any moment ... I go to bed feeling bad, I wake up feeling bad. It's like living with a ticking bomb inside you."

According to The Guardian (UK), a crowd of angry women demonstrated outside the French health ministry shouting, "We want justice!" And the BBC News reported that police have received more than 2,000 complaints from women who received the implants, and France's Director-General for Health Jean-Yves Grall stated that eight cases of cancer had been reported this year by women who had received the PIP implants.

"The implant had leaked to such an extent I had four swellings hanging from my armpits which were full of silicone gel, and had to be drained," said Sylvie, 57, who once ran a children's clothing business outside Paris and received PIP implants seven years ago after reconstruction surgery following breast cancer. "Last year I found out the implants were defective but I was having chemotherapy at the time so I couldn't have them removed immediately. It's as if a foreign element is poisoning your body as well as the cancer. If you think about it too much, you'd suffocate. You have to have a mentality of steel to survive."

"Flat-chested, I never felt like a woman," said Audrey, 32, a child care provider from southern France. "After the implants, I felt transformed. When I saw the TV reports of faulty implants, I went to have them removed. Tests had shown mine had not ruptured or leaked, but during surgery the doctor found they were in fact leaking ... I breastfed for eight months with these implants in place—at what risk to my child?"

Dozens of British women have already sued the company over the faulty implants, and Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas ... for drunk-driving in Costa Rica.

"He was a butcher, selling ham and sausage, before he started this line of work," said a former associate of Mas's.

An estimated 21,000 implant surgeries are performed each year in France.