Woman who blames breast implants for illness says new FDA rules not enough

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids woman who says breast implants caused painful health problems is welcoming new federal rules requiring doctors to give patients more warnings, but said they don’t go far enough.

But mom and hairstylist Becky Richard said also worries that the new requirements will mean nothing without accountability for surgeons.

Richard survived breast cancer thanks to 12 rounds of chemotherapy. She then decided to get breast implants, hoping they would help her feel more confident. But shortly after the surgery, she says, she got sick.

“I just started to feel worse, and I just got sicker and sicker, and no one could tell me why,” said Richard.

She found herself suffering from blurred vision, brain fog, ringing in her ears, joint pain and other ailments, making it hard to get out of bed.

She said it wasn’t until she came across an article online that she realized the problem may be her implants.

“Breast implant illness, I’ve never heard of that. And clicking on that article, I saw a list of almost all of my symptoms,” she said.

In December, Richard decided to have the implants removed. She said she felt better almost instantly.

“For the first time since my diagnosis in 2017, I finally feel like I am getting healthy,” she said.

She said that before getting the implants, she was informed about the risks of surgery but not about the risks associated with the implants themselves.

“I asked a lot of questions about safety and I was reassured that they were safe,” she said.

Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requiring health providers to give patients getting implants a list of possible side effects, which include scarring and pain, but also rupture and rare form of cancer.

Richard is now part of a team working on state legislation that would put penalties in place for doctors who neglect to inform patients about the risks associated with implants.

“The FDA can make a recommendation or even a requirement, but who is going to enforce that? Or for a surgeon who has a $6 million complex, what does a fine really mean to them? How much is the fine; who enforces that? So legislation just really takes that a step further and protects the patient,” Richard said.

The legislation she’s working on is expected to be introduced in the next few months. The FDA requirement goes into effect next month. 

“It’s so important to have informed consent and have that consent long before they make the decision, the final decision, to get breast implants because breast implants have devastated my life and I don’t want to see any other women ever go through anything like that,” Richard said.

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