Dow Chemical's Implant Liability~MULTINATIONAL MONITOR 
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 Dow Chemical's Implant Liability~MULTINATIONAL MONITOR

Subject: MULTINATIONAL MONITOR -- Dow Chemical's Implant Liability

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Multinational Monitor Jan/Feb 1996


John E. Swanson thought Dow Corning Corp. was at the head of the class in
corporate ethics -- until his wife, Colleen, decided that her silicone
{*filter*} implants, which were marketed without disclosure of significant
health risks, were the cause of her persistent illness.

Although thousands of women have complained of a variety of implant
problems, including auto-immune disease, hardening of the skin, joint
swelling and chronic fatigue, the Swanson case is different because John
Swanson was a Dow Corning ethics officer who helped design an ethics
program that was hailed as a corporate model. Now, Swanson, who worked at
Dow Corning for 27 years, says that Dow Corning's handling of the implants
controversy was unethical.

The Swanson story is told in the 1995 book Informed Consent: A Story of
Personal Tragedy and Corporate Betrayal -- Inside the Silicone {*filter*}
Implant Crisis by John Byrne. Dow Corning denounces the book as skewed,
saying John Swanson's involvement in it "precludes the possibility of a
fair, accurate and objective evaluation of the controversy." The company
also says that Swanson solicited money in exchange for a pledge not to
write an expos, a charge Swanson denies.

According to Informed Consent, Swanson received a memo in December 1990
that alleged that two company officials were trying to destroy internal
reports showing much higher implant complication rates than had been
acknowledged. The author of the memo, company Medical Director Dr. Charles
Dillon, alleged that a senior Dow Corning attorney asked a company
scientist to destroy all copies of a memo on her research, which found
that 30 percent of women with implants experience problems. Dillon asked
the company's business conduct committee, on which Swanson served, to
investigate "a violation of corporate, professional and commonly accepted
business ethics."

Dow Corning was the leading maker of {*filter*} implants and silicone gel.
Having already spent $1 billion defending itself from implant claims, and
with more than 8,000 lawsuits pending against the company, Dow Corning
declared bankruptcy in May 1995 to try to escape liability. Dow Chemical
is a 50 percent owner of Dow Corning.

Many legal experts considered Dow Chemical untouchable in these lawsuits
because it never manufactured {*filter*} implants. But in October 1995, a
Nevada jury hit Dow Chemical with a $10 million punitive damage judgment
in an implant case. The jury also awarded $4.1 million in compensatory
damages to C{*filter*}te Mahlum, who claimed that her implants caused severe
neurological illnesses.

Mahlum's lawyer, Fred Ellis, a partner in the Boston law firm of Gilman,
McLaughlin & Hanrahan, says that evidence showed that, "Dow Chemical knew
early on about the dangers of liquid silicone and concealed them from the

Dow Chemical has asked the court to set aside the verdict on the grounds
that the evidence did not support the jury's decision. "The jury was
inflamed by plaintiffs' counsels' prejudices, distortions and exploitation
of their emotions," said Dow Chemical General Counsel John Scriven
following the verdict.  "We understand that C{*filter*}te Mahlum and women
like her are unwell, but the facts argue against laying the blame at the
door of Dow Chemical," Scriven said.  "We never were in the silicone
business. And based on the overwhelming strength of the scientific and
medical evidence, we know silicone {*filter*} implants don't cause disease of
any type."

Ellis charges, however, that the two main epidemiological studies Dow
Chemical relied on, the Harvard Nursing Study and a study by the Mayo
Clinic, "do not look at the atypical diseases that these women have."

Ellis also argued that the studies were tainted by conflicts of interest.
"The Mayo study discloses on the front page that it was funded by the
Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation (PSEF)," Ellis says. Two of the
authors of the Harvard Nurses Study "had either agreed to act as a
consultant expert for the defendant manufacturers, or were actually on the
payroll of the manufacturers while they were conducting the study," Ellis
says. During the study, Dow Corning contributed million of dollars to
Brigham and Women's Hospital, the institution conducting the study.

Terri Hornbach-Torres, a Brigham spokesperson, says the hospital received
$7 million from Dow Corning and that the hospital is investigating two
doctors involved in the study. "The inquiry is looking at the potential
conflict of interest on the part of the doctors and at their roles as
experts for private attorneys representing silicone {*filter*} implant
manufacturers and as researchers involved in research supported by Dow
Corning," Hornbach-Torres says.

Silicone {*filter*} implants are not the only product linked to Dow Chemical
that can be hazardous to your health. In September 1995, Greenpeace
reported that chlorine-based Dow Chemical products -- including
pesticides, solvents and PVC plastics -- constitute the world's single
largest source of dioxins.

Dioxins have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancers,
endometriosis, declining fertility, immune system suppression and birth

Joe Stearns, Dow's director of environmental affairs for chemicals
dismissed as "totally inaccurate" the claim that Dow is the world's
leading producer of dioxins. "The Environmental Protection Agency, in
their dioxin reassessment indicated that municipal and hospital waste is
the largest [dioxin] source," he says.

"The Multinational Monitor is on to the real powers of the time: global
corporations. Dedicated to providing vital information about what these
giant companies are up to, the magazine also reports on how citizens here
and abroad are joining a new awakening against multinational injustice."

-- Ralph Nader

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Wed, 06 Jan 1999 03:00:00 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

 Relevant Pages 

1. Dow Chem.'s Implant Liabiality

2. Dow Chemical Guilty on 7 Counts

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4. Product Liability Lawsuit-Vitek Implants

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6. Who's liability is it, anyway ?


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