Apology on Thalidomide rejected by Irish groups

Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 01:00

IRISH THALIDOMIDE support groups have rejected an apology by the German company that manufactured the drug.

In its first apology in 50 years, Grünenthal said it was “very sorry” for its silence towards victims of the drug, which was sold to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s to relieve morning sickness and to aid sleep. It led to the malformation of limbs and other areas of the body in thousands of babies.

Carmel Daly McDonnell, secretary of the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society, said no apology would make up for the past 50 years.

“Grünenthal can’t be touched now and it’s an empty apology. It’s a load of codswallop. They made an apology in the speech, then took it back half-way through, saying they did not know what they were doing at the time.

“Even when the rest of the world knew about the dangers of Thalidomide, it was still on sale in Ireland. My mother bought it in a pharmacy and took two spoons of it, and I was born without arms or legs.

“I would like to see my bedroom and bathroom purpose-built because right now it is a daily struggle.

“My husband has to carry me. I was driving up until several years ago but had to stop because it is too expensive to adapt my car.

“It’s restrictive because I have two children. All my peers [with the same level of condition], can drive, so it is frustrating.

“We are appealing to the Government to provide health and social care services to the victims of Thalidomide to improve our daily lives.”

Ms Daly McDonnell said there was a lack of knowledge about Thalidomide among some healthcare practitioners.

“I went to a doctor recently and he asked me was I still taking Thalidomide. There seems to be a lack of knowledge about it, so we want them to understand the condition better so that the best level of healthcare can be delivered to us as it’s a unique disability,” she said.

She said the treatment of Thalidomide survivors varied between countries.

“In Sweden and Norway, survivors are set up for life. They do not have to worry about services and they don’t have to work.

“In Spain and Italy, survivors are in limbo as they are still in talks with their governments. Germany is probably the worst off because they get no attention from their government.

“We would like the Government to continue to work with us and, by May 2013, we would like to see them deliver,” she said.

Finola Cassidy of the Irish Thalidomide Association said: “The apology is meaningless. For Grünenthal to say they are not accountable is unacceptable. Their apology is an expression of nothingness.

“If anything, it has caused further hurt to the parents of children affected by Thalidomide who have had to deal with this all their lives.”

Ms Cassidy is highly critical of the Government’s treatment of Thalidomide survivors.

“We got a half-hour meeting in July 2011 with Minister for Health James Reilly. The Minister has offered us a healthcare package but it is not statutory so there is no guarantee.

“We have worked tirelessly with the Government and they need to own up to their responsibilities.”

She said that the drug was still sold in Ireland for over seven months after its withdrawal from sale in the UK on November 27th, 1961.

“For this reason, the Irish State has a special responsibility and they need to own up to it,” said Ms Cassidy.

Members of the Irish Thalidomide Association have been taking individual legal actions against the State since July.