Breast Implants and Junk Science

NEW YORK, NY (April 12, 2002) — Respected scientific studies have demonstrated that there is no significant link between breast implants and disease; yet, despite the evidence, many people continue to believe such a link exists. Marcia Angell, MD, former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses the "disconnect" between medical science, the legal system, and public opinion during a major address to plastic surgeons attending the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), April 27-May 3, in Las Vegas.

"The United States has a unique tort system," says Dr. Angell, "that encourages the use of expert witnesses, paid for by adversaries, whose opinions need not be based on evidence." But according to Dr. Angell, it was not only the inherent flaws in the legal system that resulted in the largest class-action settlement in the history of American law. The breast implant controversy of the 1990s, she says, illuminates important themes in American life.

"As I investigated the subject, I realized the breast implant controversy is simply one example of the difficulty we Americans have in dealing with scientific evidence, particularly on matters of health," says Dr. Angell. "When it comes to the recurrent medical scares that sweep across the land like locusts, all our sophistication goes out the window. Just give us the conclusion, tell us whom to blame, and don't bother with the evidence. "

"The worst part of the breast implant crisis of the 1990s was the emotional harm inflicted on so many women who had made the choice to have breast implants," says James Baker, Jr., MD, chair of the ASAPS Breast Surgery Committee. "Some of these women still feel traumatized, even though the solid scientific evidence that has emerged since then has substantially reassured the general public that breast implants are safe."

Breast augmentation is the third most popular cosmetic surgical procedure. According to the most recent statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were nearly 217,000 breast augmentations in 2001, up 114% since 1997.

Dr. Angell's presentation is scheduled for Thursday, May 2, 2:30 pm PDT and is sponsored by the Body Contouring Research Foundation. Dr. Angell is the author of Science On Trial.

MARCIA ANGELL, MD, and JAMES BAKER, JR., MD, are available for interviews. CONTACT THE ASAPS COMMUNICATIONS STAFF.

About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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