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Two Differing Views of Breast Implants

In a puzzling juxtaposition, two Lifetime programs take on the subject of breast implant safety from very different perspectives tonight.

The negative view is emotionally expressed in a fiercely partisan new TV movie, “Two Voices,” starring Mary McDonnell and Gail O’Grady as Sybil Goldrich and Kathleen Anneken, breast implant recipients who fought Dow Corning and other implant manufacturers over perceived silicone implant health problems and were instrumental in the manufacturers’ history-making $4.25-billion class-action settlement in 1994.

Written by Jim Macak and directed by Peter Levin, the film is a chronicle of the women’s crusade to help others make informed choices before breast implant surgery, in the face of resistance from unresponsive surgeons, unfeeling government officials and arrogant Dow Corning representatives.

But there’s no need to feel sorry for those bearing the brunt of blame in this film. They get equal time in the Linda Ellerbee-hosted news special that follows: “Final Take: Breast Implants--Facts & Choices,” which spotlights recent scientific studies that don’t support claims of implant-caused disease.

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Indeed, this report weakens “Two Voices’ ” triumphant tone so considerably that you may wonder why the movie was aired at all.

The real Sybil Goldrich is virtually the only negative voice heard in the second program. A breast cancer survivor says that “horror stories make good television.” Ellerbee remarks that it was hard to tell if the earlier breast implant controversy was a case of corporate negligence or a “media feeding frenzy.” Medical representatives refer to “junk science” being responsible for women’s fears, and a Dow Corning spokesperson, referring to some multimillion-dollar damages awarded to women in court cases, suggests that juries don’t understand the complex scientific evidence.

Be aware that you’ll see glimpses of breast implant surgery and photographs of surgery recipients, successful and not.

* “Two Voices” airs at 9 tonight, followed at 11 p.m. by “Final Take: Breast Implants--Facts & Choices,” on Lifetime. The network has rated the movie TV-14 (may not be suitable for children under 14), while the discussion program is rated TV-PG (may not be suitable for young children).

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