More than 100,000 women are suing over a surgical device that was implanted in their bodies and then, they say, turned into a horror show: gynecological mesh. The strip of plastic mesh is used to help with urinary incontinence and to lift organs that shift post-pregnancy, and it's meant to remain in place for life. But doctors who have removed the mesh from women's bodies tell CBS News the devices come out shrunken and contracted, and experts say that the type of plastic used, polypropylene, disintegrates over time. Boston Scientific, which makes the mesh, originally got its plastic (called Marlex) from a subsidiary of Chevron Phillips, but after Chevron Phillips became concerned about implanting Marlex in the human body, it stopped selling it to Boston Scientific in 2005. Boston Scientific ultimately turned to China for a replacement—and a plastic expert tells CBS it is even worse than the one originally used.
Though evidence mounted that the product from China was a counterfeit version of Marlex, with testing showing it was different from the original version used, Boston Scientific officially concluded it was the same material and started using it. Experts who looked at the Chinese product say they would only expect it to last inside the body a few months, not permanently. And women who spoke to CBS News report horrifying experiences with the mesh, with one saying she could no longer feel when her bladder was full and often had blood in her urine and another saying it felt like there was a cheese grater inside her body. Experts say the supply chain of the plastic is not clear and that the lack of documentation and testing on the product is a huge concern: "Implantation of this into anyone is human experimentation but without consent," says one surgeon. Read the full investigation here. (Read more lawsuit stories.)