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Thalidomide apology

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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On August 31st, German company Grunenthal issued an apology to all the victims of the thalidomide birth defects tragedy.  This is the first apology that has been issued by the company since the drug was released on to the market over half a century ago. You can read the apology here: Thalidomide apology.

Between 1958 and 2001, the drug was given to many expecting mothers in an effort to treat morning sickness, headaches, coughs, colds and insomnia.  This resulted in around 2000 babies being born with birth defects, 470 of which are living in the UK today. 

Thalidomide babies often suffered missing or deformed limbs and extreme shortening of arms and legs, but the drug also caused other deformities such as malformations of the eyes and ears, genitals, heart, kidneys and digestive tract.

The company issued an apology stating that it "regrets" the consequences of the drug and it apologised for its silence about these consequences over the past 50 years. 

The apology however was dismissed by many including the Thalidomide Agency UK, which represents people affected by the drug in Britain. The Charity’s head consultant, Freddie Astbury branded the apology as "insufficient" and stated that the Grunenthal Group needed to "put their money where their mouth is…Being disabled is very expensive and thalidomide people need help and care, and adaptations to their cars and homes. We just want people to live a comfortable life…”

Freddie Astbury was born in 1959 with no arms and no legs after his mother took the drug during her pregnancy with him. In his statement about the apology, he added that if Grunenthal was serious about admitting they are at fault and regretted what had happened, they needed to start helping those who were affected financially. 

This point was backed by many and Thalidomide survivors all across the country reciprocated Astbury’s views. Those affected commented that the apology failed to admit the actual wrongdoing and the apology was not a genuine or sincere one.  Many described the apology as insulting as all it did was go so far as to say sorry for not recognising the consequences of Thalidomide earlier. 

Whether the company will come forward again to make a further apology or even accept responsibility and offer to compensate the Thalidomide survivors in the UK remains to be seen. 

By clinical negligence solicitor, Laura Sheehan