The continuing Thalidomide scandal

End of the week: I’d had it with the serious news. Time to browse the web. Surely something funny would pop up, like the “Lost in Translation” series? No: on the Guardian website, something caught my eye. It was not the kind of flimsy news I was after. Quite the opposite: it was heart-breaking.

Whenever the medicine Thalidomide hits the news, it captures my attention. I have two acquaintances who are victims of this poison.

One has the outward marks of a Thalidomide victim. Her right arm stops just above the elbow, there is no hand, there are three stumps instead of fingers. Meeting the other one, you would be surprised to hear she is another victim. Her body is damaged on the inside. Though they are among the “lucky” victims, of course their lives have been deeply affected.

So the header “Justice evaded: Thalidomide” made me click the Guardian link. Surely, this scandal had been settled by now? Weren’t victims already receiving compensation?

The Guardian link landed me on the page of an article by Harold Evans titled “Thalidomide: how men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice”. It is a very long article. The involved pharmaceutical firms have been evading justice for over fifty years. They are still fighting victims. They fight extremely dirty.

A few victims and their families have received a paltry compensation. The majority of international victims have not. The article mentions this poison is actually still prescribed, sometimes under new names.

Will my two acquaintances ever hear about this article? Will they learn about the latest scandal surrounding the thalidomide case? Like many victims the world over, they only speak their own language – not German, nor English. Like many victims, they do not earn the kind of money to start yet another court case.

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