Call for apology over Thalidomide

Tuesday 22 December 2009 19.49
Finola Cassidy - Seeking apology
Finola Cassidy - Seeking apology

Those who suffered deformities as a result of the drug Thalidomide being prescribed to their mothers during pregnancy in the 50s and 60s, are calling on the Irish Government to formally apologise to them.

It follows reports that Gordan Brown is to issue an apology to those who have been affected by Thalidomide in Britain and is to pay them £20m in compensation.

Under a deal expected to be announced soon, Britain's Department of Health will pay a grant of £20m over three years to the Thalidomide Trust, which dispenses aid to people disabled by the drug.

The deal follows a campaign backed by the Sunday Times to secure financial support for the UK's 463 surviving thalidomide victims, many of whom are unable to work and require adapted homes and cars.

Pregnant women were prescribed thalidomide in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness or insomnia.

The drug was developed in the mid 1950s in Germany and in 1958 it was described by the British government's Cohen Committee as a ‘great drug with proven value’.

It was withdrawn from sale in 1961 after babies were born with limb deformities and other damage.

The drug's UK manufacturer, Distillers Biochemicals, paid around £28m compensation in the 1970s following a legal battle by the families of those affected.

Under the new settlement, the grant will be reviewed after three years but it is expected to be continued for the lifetimes of those damaged by the drug.

It is also hoped a further £5m could be provided if the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contribute, according to campaigners.

The Irish Thalidomide Association say that it is not simply about money, and that they want recognition from those responsible.

Finola Cassidy, ITA Secretary, said 'It is a terrible time to be seeking anything, but if we start with the apology, if we begin to get disclosure on the documents, if we just begin to tell the Thalidomide story in its entirety once and for all, then we can start the process towards negotiations for financial settlement.'