suffer the children

Suffer the Children: (date) ISBN

In the late 1950s, tranquillizers were all the rage – the new, safe, helpful way to achieve calm in a hectic world.  Mothers in forty-six countries around the world happily took a tranquillizing pill that was said to be non-toxic, with no side effects, and safe even for pregnant women.  The wonder pill was thalidomide.  The truth was that eight thousand babies were horribly poisoned by it, entering the world with terrible deformities.

Ten years after the first thalidomide babies were born in Britain, the legal battle for compensation was in total deadlock.  This not only meant that some four hundred families were struggling with the burdens – financial, practical and psychological – of bringing up horribly handicapped children; it also meant that, because the case was sub judice, virtually nothing had been published about the origins and cause of the most appalling drug disaster in modern medical history. Despite forbidding legal obstacles The Sunday Times went ahead with a campaign which ultimately resulted in the settlement for the British victims being ten times greater than the first figure proposed by Distillers, the company which sold the drug in Britain.  As part of their campaign The Sunday Times mounted a thorough enquiry into the causes and consequences of the disaster.  This is the first full account of what that investigation revealed.

The book examines the ambitions and standards of the company which invented the drug, and the dubious basis of the claims made for it – even as a tranquillizer.  It looks at the motives behind the campaign to market thalidomide worldwide, and at the reason why the drug was not withdrawn when serious evidence became available to the manufacturers and distributors about its terrible side effects.


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