Case Study: Dow Corning and the Silicone Breast Implant Controversy.

Essay by dom5858 November 2005

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Years ago, women were inflicted with what medical experts referred to as breast ailment; a disease found within the female breast that inevitably caused death. As years past and knowledge grew, this ailment was later named, breast cancer. This unusual and at times fatal disease underwent years of medical research in order to find its cause and what many had hoped for, a cure. Medical experts where able to prove that the removal of the breast; known as a mastectomy, would in most cases eliminate the disease. This medical procedure, however effective, left its patients lacking self-esteem and years of psychological issues. In 1950, a well-known company; Dow Corning, known for it's manufacturing of silicone within the industrial industry, was growing rapidly. Dow scientists, having already developed 600 silicone based products, soon became interested in using silicone in medical applications; specifically, silicone devices implanted within the human body.

With the mastectomy procedure in mind, Dow set out to invent a breast replacement. Post, Lawrence, and Weber (1993) "In the early 1960's, Dow Chemical engineers developed the first prototype of a breast implant by encapsulating a firm-density silicone gel within a silicone rubber bag" (p. 341). This invention would later be hailed as an enormous medical breakthrough. Physicians around the world embraced Dow's new invention, and the product was used almost immediately.

The Case:

In the early 1960's, Dow Corning, a large player within the chemical industry embarked on a new and strategic campaign to develop or create the first known breast implant. Its initial purpose was to have the newly developed devices implanted within mastectomy patients. At the time, Dow Corning was considered the monopoly in this field; however, in the 1970's Dow experienced its first competitive threat. This particular competitor brought to market, a softer, more...