In December 2013, Bill Tedford, a resident of Jefferson County, Alabama, underwent surgery in order to repair a hernia. His doctor used the Physiomesh Hernia Patch, a device that manufacturer Ethicon claimed was designed to prevent inflammation and the formation of scar tissue resulting in adhesion. Instead, that is exactly what happened.

According to Tedford’s complaint, filed in a U.S. District Court on August 15th, the “unique multi-layer design” of the Physiomesh prevented fluid drainage, which in turn results in the formation of seroma (fluid buildup around the surgical site), infections – and worse.

Tedford’s reaction to the mesh caused the device to migrate, forming scar tissue and preventing the injury from healing properly. As a result, Tedford was required to undergo numerous revision surgeries. The complaint states that Tedford has “suffered, and may continue to suffer, severe and permanent personal injuries, including hernia revision surgery to remove or revise the Defective Device, continued rehabilitation, otherwise unnecessary additional medical care and likely additional surgeries.”

Another man in neighboring Georgia, identified as “William P.,” filed a lawsuit in July. According to his attorney, he had chosen to undergo hernia surgery with the Physiomesh after studying Ethicon’s sales literature. It wasn’t long after his surgery before William began experiencing severe pain. When he went in for revision surgery, his doctor discovered that the Physiomesh had caused the formation of a tear two centimeters wide.

These stories are only two of thousands from around the world. Sixty-nine-year-old Peter Corbett, a retired grocery store manager from Llwydcoed, Wales, had surgery to repair a hernia he suffered while vacationing in Italy in 2013. The mesh began causing Corbett incredible pain, which he described as being like “touching the live wires of a car battery.”

Unable to eat, his weight dropped by nearly 100 pounds in less than a year. When he returned to the hospital to have the mesh removed, surgeons discovered that the nerves had actually grown through the scar tissue and into the mesh itself. Although the surgeons were able to remove the device, Corbett suffers from permanent nerve damage and must take morphine in order to manage the pain.

Corbett is one of the more fortunate ones. Pauline Inch of Barry, U.K., underwent a routine gall bladder surgery several years ago and had a hernia mesh implanted in order to support her stomach muscles during recovery. Today, the formerly active 60-year-old grandmother suffers debilitating pain in her back and lower extremities and cannot even walk for long distances. Tragically, the mesh has become so embedded in the surrounding organs that surgeons cannot remove it. Inch says the device is killing her.

North of the border, “Linda,” a woman from Toronto, Ontario, was advised by her doctor to have the mesh implanted in order to prevent bowel obstruction. She followed that advice – yet wound up suffering a bowel obstruction anyway. She later found out that use of a surgical mesh is not necessary in many hernia cases. She said, “I was never told about any potential risks associated with this mesh and I think my doctor was in the dark about it.”

That is indeed what hundreds of lawsuits now claim: Ethicon and other hernia mesh manufacturers were aware of the defects of their products and failed to warn patients and doctors. Currently, there are more than 80 hernia mesh lawsuits being consolidated in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia, but if the growing number of stories are any indication, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands more waiting in the wings.

The first trials are scheduled to begin next year.

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K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.