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sábado, 15 de noviembre de 2014

Thalidomide dark shadow

The dark shadow of thalidomide is still with us. The original catastrophe maimed 20,000 babies and killed 80,000: it remains the greatest manmade global disaster. Now evidence has been uncovered that the pharmaceutical outrage – it is nothing less – was compounded by a judicial scandal that has suppurated all these years.

It is exposed in a large number of documents discovered in the state archives of North Rhine-Westphalia by a researcher for the UK Thalidomide Trust. The papers, which have been examined and authenticated by the international law firm of Ince & Co, speak to political interference that violated the constitutional division of power between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. And more than half a century since the pill’s threat to an embryo was proven, the company that produced the first disaster has continued to sell the drug in parts of Latin America, on prescription only, where babies continued to be born with malformations similar to the survivors from the 1960s.
The criminal trial of employees of Chemie-Grünenthal, the German company that created and marketed thalidomide, opened in the pretty town of Alsdorf, near Aachen, on 27 May 1968. It promised to be comparable in scale and emotional intensity to Nuremberg. Thousands of deformed babies had died or been allowed to die. Many families with surviving children filed civil suits, but all the victims had to wait years without support because the criminal trial took precedence.
Grünenthal had insisted that it was blameless: the thousands of abnormal births were an act of God. It had the discreet support of the politically well-connected chemical industry, mindful that a conviction would raise insurance premiums. The North Rhine-Westphalia public prosecutors found the company obstructive. They had to seize the most important Grünenthal documents in police raids on its “bunker” and a company lawyer’s house.
It took them six years to examine 5,000 case histories: expectant mothers who had taken thalidomide and given birth to deformed and dead babies, and men and women who had suffered irreversible nerve damage. The bill of indictment they prepared against nine Grünenthal employees ran to 972 pages. In support, they had lined up 351 witnesses, 29 technical experts and 70,000 pages of evidence. There were 400 co-plaintiffs. (From "The Guardian").