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Christine Williamson, head of Silicone Support UK
"Today we hope to change the law in Europe"
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Eleanor Bradford reports
"In 1993 Margot Cameron formed the Silicone Support group"
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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 11:09 GMT
EU considers breast implant measures
The campaign group is calling for tighter regulations over silicone implants
There is concern women's lives may be at risk
Measures to improve the safety of silicone breast implants are being considered by the European Commission.

Proposals, presented to MEPs on Wednesday by EU Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, include:

  • independent pre and post-surgery counselling, with women being given a "second opinion" by a specialist other than their own surgeon before surgery
  • a register of qualified plastic surgeons
  • national registers of every operation carried out in all of the 15 EU member states, with surveillance and monitoring of those undergoing surgery
  • major studies to establish the precise health risks of implants
The EU plans to issue guidelines in the next fours weeks, but it will be for individual EU governments to decide whether to approve the measures.

A total ban on implants has been ruled out in the immediate future.

An EU spokesman said: "There is no scientific evidence showing a link between silicone and cancer. We do not think there is justification for banning silicone implants,"

The EU move marks a breakthrough in a six-year campaign by Scottish Euro MP Bill Miller, who has warned that thousands of women's lives are being put at risk because of a lack of safety controls.

He backed the measures being presented to the EU, and added he wanted to see a minimum age limit of 18 for cosmetic treatment.

Women are still getting sick. They are still not being told of the risks before they have implants

Christine Williamson,
Silicone Support UK
Christine Williamson, head of Silicone Support UK, told BBC News Online that her group wanted a total ban on silicone implants.

Ms Williamson, who lost breast tissue, chest muscle and lymph nodes when her implant ruptured and had to be removed, said if a ban was not possible, the group wanted tighter regulation, including a mandatory register of breast implants.

"Women are still getting sick. They are still not being told of the risks before they have implants.

"All silicone implants leak from day one, and they all have to be replaced. Every surgeon will tell you they don't last."

She said she hoped the EU would set down laws: "I actually think they are going to change the laws. I'm really hoping."

Ms Williamson added that action was needed.

"Everyone knows that implant shells rupture and silicone migrates to every organ in their body.

"Women lose their breasts, some women end up in a wheelchair. Some women die."

Silicone Support UK, formed by Glasgow woman Margot Cameron after she became ill following silicone injections in her lips, wants independent advisors to counsel women considering cosmetic surgery.

'Painful experience'

The group said surgeons are the wrong people to offer the advice as they have a financial interest in the operation going ahead.

Labour Euro MP Bill Miller
Bill Miller: Campaign breakthrough
The group also wants a register of women who have had the operation - by number so women can keep their anonymity - and a register of surgeons properly qualified to carry out the procedure.

Mr Miller said: "This is a watershed in our campaign. Europe has recognised that there is a problem with silicone implants and is going to do something about it.

"This is a victory for the hundreds of women throughout the UK and Europe who have worked tirelessly to make sure other women do not repeat their painful experience of implant surgery."

Silicone breast implants are already banned in America, Japan, Canada and France. A recent US study found that 69% of them rupture within 10 years.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Health
When silicone implants go wrong
23 May 00 | Scotland
EC in silicone implants inquiry
11 Dec 00 | Health
Breast implants withdrawn
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