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1968: Damages for thalidomide children
Damages are to be awarded under a settlement agreed in the High Court to 62 children born with deformities, after their mothers took the drug thalidomide during pregnancy.

The Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd has agreed to pay each of the children 40% of what they were claiming had their court actions been successful.

But Distillers, who produced and marketed the drug in Britain, has said any agreement is conditional on all allegations of negligence being withdrawn.

Legal experts estimate between 500,000 and 1.5m will be the likely pay-out, which means each child can expect between 5,000 and 45,000, depending on the extent of their disability.

'Fair and just agreement'

Mr Justice Hinchcliffe said it was a "fair and just" arrangement which it would be "folly to refuse".

"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," he said.

Appearing for the children and parents, Desmond Ackner QC backed the settlement, and said he believed that had the claims continued, "the plaintiffs would have failed to recover a pennypiece".

He said the claimants faced an uphill struggle to establish that Distillers were in breach of their duty of care to the unborn children - to which there is no legal precedent under English law.

Distillers says it is now considering providing a substantial sum to assist thalidomide children whose parents did not make a claim and who would not normally benefit from this settlement.

It is estimated that more than 400 children in the UK have suffered deformities as a result of thalidomide.

But Lady Hoare, founder of the Lady Hoare Trust for thalidomide children, says the money awarded to the 62 children at the High Court falls short of what is required.

"Even for this number this amount of recompense can never recompense for the disaster that's happened," she said.

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Watch/Listen
Tommy finds it easier eating with his feet than with a prosthetic hand
There are more than 400 children in the UK affected by thalidomide

A family copes with the consequences of Thalidomide


In Context
Worldwide, some 8,000 women who took thalidomide as a sedative and to alleviate morning sickness, gave birth to babies with deformities.

Thalidomide was available in the UK from 1958 and taken off the market in late 1961 after tests revealed it disrupted foetal development.

Many other claims were later settled out of court after the 1968 agreement.

In 1973 after a barrage of press and public pressure, Distillers eventually agreed to provide a trust fund and lump sum payouts to all of the children.

A public investigation into the tragedy was repeatedly demanded but never carried out.

As children, "thalidomiders" were often regarded in society as tragic victims destined to lead short and sub-standard lives.

But most have overcome their disabilities and successfully challenged these assumptions.

Stories From 19 Feb


 
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