PIP attorneys plead for leniency in breast implant fraud trial

Thousands of patients and regulators may believe otherwise, but attorneys representing 5 executives from the defunct breast-implant company Poly Implant Prothèse insisted last week that their clients did not knowingly make substandard implants.

French public radio station RFI reports that the attorneys defended the safety of the implants involved. News that patients were complaining about unusual levels of rupturing sparked initial concern. And then the revelation that the now-defunct company used substandard materials for its products sparked panic among thousands of female patients around the globe.

But attorneys representing 5 former PIP executives, including founder Jean-Claude Mas, deny they committed aggravated fraud for using inferior industrial-grade, rather than medical-grade, silicone in the company's breast implants. The disgraced execs' legal team noted this fact but is arguing for gentler punishments, in part because testing of the implants suggested that the materials weren't toxic or a cause of increased rates of breast cancer (an assertion that some health experts now dispute).

The defense's final arguments followed final arguments from patient attorneys who are seeking four years and a $128,000 fine for Mas, plus prison terms of 6 months to two years for the other executives on trial. They represent 5,127 patients who claim the substandard implants led to at least 4,000 breast-implant ruptures in the EU and Latin America.

It's one of the biggest legal cases to hit French courts in years, and there will be heady anticipation waiting for the verdict.

- read the RFI story