1968 In Photos: The High Court Agrees Meagre Compensation For Thalidomide Victims
Thalidomide was marketed as the sedative that would alleviate morning sickness. It had been sold to unsuspecting pregnant women between 1958 and late 1961, when it was removed from the market following evidence it disrupted foetal development.
We also apologize for the fact that we have not found the way to you from person to person for almost 50 years.
The German manufacturers Grunenthal have never admitted liability to the British victims nor have they contributed to the Thalidomide Trust. A statement from Grunenthal said: “Thalidomide is part of our history and always will be and we have accepted a responsibility to offer help. We have no legal responsibility to compensate individuals affected.
November 1962 in a Belgian court a mother and her accomplice’s get mercy for child murder. 50 years ago society applauded the disability hate crime of the decade. The right to life denied a child by her own mother. Corrine Vandeput, a child born with thalidomide damage was given a lethal dose of barbituate by her mother Suzanne Vandeput. On trial for five days this case was given worldwide attention and caused riots in the streets of belgium.
“It is in the interests of the infant plaintiffs and their parents, and it reflects great credit on all those who have taken part in negotiating it.”
But it wasn’t much. Lady Hoare, founder of the Lady Hoare Trust for thalidomide children, was unimpressed by the settlement:
“Even for this number this amount of recompense can never recompense for the disaster that’s happened.”
Lady Hoare was a powerful force in helping the victims get recognition.
Others got involved.
A movement to make those responsible pay the victims was underway.
In late 1972, The Sunday Times reported “Our Thalidomide Children, a Cause for National Shame.” Under the editorship of Harold Evans, the paper focused on the “plight of hundreds of British Thalidomide children who had never had any compensation for severe birth defects some had suffered. This turned into a campaign for the newspaper’s Insight investigative team, and Evans himself took on the drug companies responsible for the manufacture of Thalidomide, pursuing them through the English courts and eventually gaining victory in the European Court of Human Rights. As a result, the victims’ families won compensation after more than a decade. Moreover, the British Government was compelled to change the law inhibiting the reporting of civil cases.”
The excellent Thalidomide50 site writes:
It was not until November 1972 when The Sunday Times financially assisted a small group of private shareholders to purchase of the full 250,000 Distillers shareholder list for $4000 and the information was made public, did the investors apply pressure to the Distillers company to provide any responsible level of compensation
In this article The Sunday Times reports that Legal and General Assurance Society and the General and Municipal works union begin to flex their financial and social power on behalf of the thalidomide children. Shame no one listened to Ralph Nadir from the States advice he was on the right track.
A footnote in this Series of articles announced that “in a future article The Sunday Times would trace how the tragedy occurred”. On 17 November 1972, the Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division granted the Attorney-General’s application for an injunction restraining publication of this future article on the ground that it would constitute contempt of court.
In the fight for justice The Sunday Times support for parents who decided to fight on for a better deal meant conflict, parents had been fighting in the courts in the futile hope for legal justice for 10 years, with cases still going through the courts at the time. Under the Contempt laws which existed at the time, the media were prevented from publishing a great range of information about the way Thalidomide had been developed and distributed . The legal battle against the injunction which went all the way through the British legal system to the European Court of Human Rights in 1979 and which led to the Contempt of Court Act two years later in 1981
But it hasn’t ended. Did the drug damage the victims’ children?
A new scientific study seen exclusively by the BBC indicates that the drug Thalidomide is still causing birth defects in Brazil today. It’s been given to people suffering from leprosy to ease some of their symptoms, and some women have taken it unaware of the risks they run when pregnant…
About 10,000 Thalidomide babies were born worldwide until the drug was withdrawn in the early 1960s. In most countries the Thalidomide children became Thalidomide adults, now in their 50s, and there were no more Thalidomide babies.
But in Brazil the drug was re-licensed in 1965 as a treatment for skin lesions, one of the complications of leprosy…
Schuler-Faccini and other researchers from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre looked at the birth records of 17.5 million babies born between 2005 and 2010. ”We looked at all children with limb defects and those with the characteristic defects of Thalidomide,” Schuler-Faccini says. “We compared the distribution of Thalidomide tablets… with the number of limb defects and there was a direct correlation. The bigger the amount of pills in each state the higher the number of limb defects.”
In the same 2005-2010 period, 5.8 million Thalidomide pills were distributed across Brazil.