Implant Users OK Dow Offer

Thousands of women who say their silicone breast implants made them ill have overwhelmingly approved a $3.2 billion plan to settle with implant maker Dow Corning Corp.

The company, which is trying to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, said Tuesday that nearly 96 percent of the more than 112,000 claimants voted in favor of the settlement plan.

The plan goes before a federal bankruptcy judge on June 28. If approved, the first claims could be paid by the end of the year.

"I'm not saying this is the best thing since sliced bread, but it is finally a process by which we can draw an end to this and get some people the medical care that they have not been able to get," said Sybil Niden Goldrich, who represents implant recipients.

Under the settlement, claimants who want their silicone implants removed would get $5,000 for the surgery or $20,000 if their implants have ruptured.

Women with the most serious medical conditions could receive up to $300,000, in addition to money for implant removal. Women without a disease claim could get $2,000.

Claimants would still have the option to reject the settlement and pursue litigation. A woman whose medical condition changes after she has been compensated also could qualify for an additional payment.

The settlement plan includes an additional $1.3 billion for claims from suppliers, lenders and hospitals owed money by Dow Corning. Some creditors did not endorse the plan Tuesday.

Dow Corning was the world's largest maker of silicone implants for 30 years before health questions and government pressure forced them off the market in 1992.

Since then, thousands of women who claim their implants made them sick have been seeking compensation. The crush of litigation forced Dow Corning into bankruptcy in 1995.

Several studies have found little solid evidence that implants cause diseases. Saline-filled implants are still approved for use in cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.

Dow Corning, based in Midland, Mich., is co-owned by Dow Chemical Co. and Corning Inc.

Written By Joseph Altman Jr