Five executives of the French breast implant supplier Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) have gone on trial for fraud. They are accused of putting thousands of women at risk by using industrial silicone.
The case has more than 5,000 registered female plaintiffs. It's alleged PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas (pictured above) and four others committed aggravated fraud by not using medical grade silicone in the implants, estimated to have been received by hundreds of thousands of women in over 60 countries.
PIP, once the world's third largest breast implant company supplying more than 100,000 implants a year, was shut down and its products banned in two years ago after it was revealed to have been using the non-authorized silicon gel.
As the trial began, Mas was heckled by observers when he took to the stand to state his name and profession. Earlier, his lawyer, Yves Haddad, scolded reporters for their treatment of his client.
"Whatever happened, what you are doing to a 74-year-old man is not dignified," said Haddad.
47-year-old plaintiff Angela Mauro, whose implants ruptured twice, told the news agency AFP she hoped the women would be given the same respect by the court as victims of medical malpractice.
"I expect us to be considered as victims and not just as women who wanted implants," said Mauro.
Last year, the EU's health commissioner announced plans for tighter controls on a wide variety of medical devices, in reaction to the breast implant scandal.
"We must do our best never to let this happen again," said then-Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli in September.
In 2011, France's health ministry advised 30,000 women with PIP implants to have them removed, saying that while there was no proven cancer risk, they could rupture and cause health problems.
An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 women in Britain were affected - but health warnings there were not as strong.
"Women with PIP implants should not be unduly worried,” Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said. “We have no evidence of a link to cancer or an increased risk of rupture. If women are concerned they should speak to their surgeon."
jr/kms (AFP, dpa)