Not Tested on Humans

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It was 2006 and life for Melynda was very good. She was 32 years old. She and her devoted husband were raising two young sons.

Her friends liked to call her a Mormon Martha Stewart. The family was very involved in The Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as the LDS church. She taught sewing and bread making to fellow Mormon women and put on an annual fall pumpkin party for all the families in the church. Every year for Christmas, she’d make a big, elaborate gingerbread house.

Melynda had a master’s degree, and a fulfilling job. She felt strong and healthy; she even worked as a personal trainer on the side. 

But then, she started to feel a strange heaviness and pressure in her pelvis. She would feel it after a hard workout or a long day on her feet. She went to see a leading uro-gynecologists. He diagnosed her with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. It’s actually very common, especially for people who have given birth. About 50 percent of people with uteruses will have some degree of prolapse in their lifetime.

Melynda’s case was mild though: it was stage one, and it wasn’t really impacting her quality of life. But the doctor recommended another surgical option — the “gold standard” of surgery for prolapse — pelvic mesh, manufactured by Johnson and Johnson. He presented it as a preventative procedure.

Meylnda trusted him. And so a few months later, she went in for the surgery. And as is standard, she first had to sign pages and pages of consent forms. 

When she woke up from the surgery, she experienced a sharp stabbing pain. During her six week recovery, members from the LDS church bought dinners three times a week and her husband Jeff was by her side anytime he wasn’t working. Weeks passed. She kept calling the doctor, telling him she was still in pain. But he kept telling her the same thing: it's not the mesh. 

After Melynda starts to uncover the truth about mesh, she starts to question her religion and her world view; she forms a new understanding of the true meaning of informed consent. 

This episode of Bodies calls into question what consent really means. How can you consent to something if you don’t have all the information?




Read the full transcript here.


Host and Producer: Allison Behringer
Associate Producer: Hannah Harris Green 
Editor: Stephanie Foo
Composer/Sound Designer: Dara Hirsch
Mix engineer: Myke Dodge Weiskopf 
Additional editorial support: Camila Kerwin
Story Consultants: KalaLea, Caitlin Pierce, Cass Adair
Research Assistant: Liz Charky 
Managing Producer: Kristen Lepore