Thalidomide victims get compensation

  • Breaking
  • 28/07/2010

By Melissa Davies

Ten New Zealanders who have endured a lifetime after being born thalidomide babies are to get a share of $3.5 million.

In an announcement late this afternoon, drug company Diageo said it was going to pay compensation to victims here and in Australia.

The drug was prescribed to treat morning sickness for pregnant women in the 1950s and '60s. But as a result, many of their babies were born with missing limbs and other deformities.

Barry de Geest survived the debilitating effects of thalidomide, a drug given to his mother which meant he was born with no arms and deformed legs.

Not only has it disabled his body, but his life.

Today's announcement would at least change the latter – 3 News delivered him news of the announcement when it was released an hour ago.  

"It's emotional," he says. "It makes me feel really excited."

Mr De Geest will get compensation of around $78,000 paid over 20 years from the drug and alcohol company Diageo.

He says it's especially welcome as he struggles to afford the expense of catering for his disability.

"Wearing glasses and not being able to take them on and off is a real hassle, so now with this payment I'll be able to go out and get my eyes lasered," says Mr De Geest.

"I really want to give my mother a holiday because my mother saved me really, because they wanted to put me in an institution."

Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness, but the side effects were devastating.

An estimated 10,000 babies worldwide were born with severe deformities. There are 10 survivors in New Zealand.

Last year Diageo promised British survivors $35 million in compensation. In a statement a company director said: "We very much regret the thalidomide tragedy which happened nearly 50 years ago. The suffering and hurt of those affected has troubled us all."

There are strict controls on the use of thalidomide for pregnant women, and the drug has had a revival over the past decade. It is sometimes prescribed to treat a range of conditions like leprosy, AIDS and some forms of cancer.

3 News

source: newshub archive