The court ruling requiring the Food and Drug Administration to release medical data on silicone gel breast implants {news story, Nov. 28} is welcome news to health care advocates who have long been concerned about the serious complications associated with these devices. For many years rheumatologists, epidemiologists and cancer specialists have heard horror stories from implant patients and have had to deal with the consequences of their surgery. Although there is written documentation of these problems, until now the general public has not been made aware of the possible health hazards.

The battle to release this information began in earnest in 1987, when the Maryland General Assembly passed a law that required doctors to provide prospective patients with a standardized brochure explaining possible risks and complications of breast implants.

You would think such a simple measure could quickly and easily be implemented. Unfortunately, this was not the case. As a member of the committee developing the brochures, I witnessed firsthand the efforts of the plastic surgeon community to use our monthly meetings to thwart the law's intent. In the two years following its passage, the surgeons first attempted to have the law withdrawn and then to water it down with advertising language detailing the surgery's positive aspects. They also fought over every word eventually included in the brochures. Although a final version of the pamphlets has been produced, I am still getting reports that some Maryland plastic surgeons are not distributing them.

As a member of the FDA work group developing similar materials for nationwide distribution, I see the same pattern continuing. As the evidence against implants mounts, release of the information is still being delayed.

During lengthy hearings before a Maryland legislative committee, we received testimony from highly respected medical experts stating that 85 percent of implant surgeries are being performed for cosmetic reasons and that 25 percent of the income of plastic surgeons is derived from these procedures. Approximately 200,000 women get breast implants each year. Obviously, if women thought there were serious health problems caused by implants, there would far fewer operations.

It is not too much to expect the FDA to allow women to make informed decisions about this procedure. The evidence is there -- I have seen it. It is unconscionable that the Public Citizen Health Research Group has to win its lawsuit before safety data on the implants is released. It is time the FDA got back into the business of protecting the public health and stopped hiding behind the cloak of trade-secrets disclosure. JOAN B. PITKIN Member, Maryland House of Delegates (D-Prince George's County) Bowie