Thalidomide firm finally says sorry
The German manufacturer of a drug that caused children to be born with shortened limbs, or no limbs at all, has issued its first ever apology - 50 years after the drug was taken off the market.
Gruenenthal Group’s chief executive said the company wanted to apologise to mothers who took thalidomide during the 1950s and 1960s and to the children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.
“We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn’t find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being,” Harald Stock said. “We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us.”
Thalidomide is a powerful sedative and was given to pregnant women mostly to combat morning sickness. It led to a wave of birth defects in Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan.
Freddie Astbury, from Liverpool, England, who was born without arms or legs after his mother took thalidomide, said the apology was long overdue.
“It’s a disgrace it’s taken them 50 years to apologise,” said the 52-year-old. “I’m gobsmacked.
“For years, (Gruenenthal) have insisted they never did anything wrong.” Astbury also said the company should offer compensation. “It’s time to put their money where their mouth is,” he said.
“A lot of us depend on specialist care and that runs into the millions. We invite them to sit around the table with us to see how far their apology will go. I don’t think they’ve ever realised the impact they’ve had on peoples’ lives.”