Breast implant company's founder charged, attorney says

Jean-Claude Mas, seen here in a January 17, 2001 file photo, was arrested in southern France  on Thursday.

Story highlights

  • "Money will not bring me back my health, it will not erase the scars," implant wearer says
  • PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas is charged with involuntary injury, his attorney says
  • Mas has been released on bail but cannot leave the country, the attorney says
  • PIP breast implants have sparked health scares in Europe and South America

The founder of a French company that makes breast implants linked to a health scare was charged Friday with involuntary injury, his attorney told a CNN television affiliate.

Jean-Claude Mas, founder of Poly Implant Protheses, or PIP, has been released but is under judicial control, meaning he cannot leave France, attorney Yves Haddad said.

He has not been charged with the more serious offense of involuntary manslaughter.

Mas was arrested Thursday in Six-Fours-les-Plages, near Toulon in southern France, the French national police said.

His lawyer said Thursday his client is not feeling well and needs to see a doctor.

Q&A: Implant scandal - What went wrong?

PIP Director Claude Couty was arrested at about the same time as Mas in nearby La Seyne-sur-Mer, and investigators searched his home, according to CNN affiliate France 2.

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Mas was arrested in connection with an investigation into manslaughter and involuntary harm following the cancer death of a French woman with PIP implants in 2010, police in Marseille said.

Prosecutors opened the probe in December in Marseille. Marseille police and and public health officials are conducting the investigation, police said.

Joelle Manighetti, 55, from Paris, who got PIP implants after breast cancer said she was relieved authorities were finally starting to take action -- although she was disappointed it had taken so long.

"Too bad we do not have a justice system like they do in the United States which allows the accumulation of penalties ... because the small punishment he will receive for what he did to 300,000 to 400,000 women, is not much compared to what we have suffered because of him," she said.

Manighetti said she would like to tell Mas face-to-face that she is not bringing charges in order to get compensation, but because he should be punished for what he has done.

Mas has been reported as saying in a police interview last year that the women who were suing over PIP implants were doing it for the money.

"Money will not bring me back my health, it will not erase the scars both physical and mental that he has made on all our lives," Manighetti said.

The married mother-of-three, who has been a health care professional for more than 30 years, has set up a blog to provide information and support to other women who've had PIP implants, she says.

PIP implants have sparked health scares in Europe and South America.

A French attorney representing women with implants welcomed the arrest, but said it could have come sooner.

"I don't expect much from his hearing as we have already heard his lack of respect with regard to all of the victims," said the lawyer, Philippe Courtois.

"He will undoubtedly say there was no problem with the gel, but that is not his decision to make."

An estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries received breast implants from the company. The implants were banned in 2010, and the company went bankrupt later that year.

The implants are not approved for use in the United States.

French authorities announced last month that the government would pay for the removal of the bankrupt company's implants, which a British medical group says were made from "nonmedical grade silicone believed by the manufacturers to be made for mattresses."

German medical groups recommended this month that women seek removal of PIP breast implants, saying they need not hurry but the devices could pose eventual health problems.

Authorities in France and England have dismissed fears of cancer from the implants but have said the devices are prone to rupture and could cause inflammation, scarring and fibrosis.

More than 500 French women have had the implants removed since last year, according to the French government agency that evaluates the safety of medical products. Since then, more than 1,000 implants have ruptured, the agency said.

The British government says there is still no statistical data to show that PIP implants are either toxic or more prone to rupturing than others.

"Our advice remains the same that there is not sufficient evidence to recommend routine removal. We have always recommended that women who are concerned should speak to their surgeon or GP," British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said in a statement.