What about the Husband and Children I Never Had?’

Having lived for 50 years with deformed legs and without arms, only some fingers attached to her shoulders, Mary Henley-Collopy was incensed to discover yesterday that her disabilities could have been prevented.

The Melbourne victim of the side-effects of thalidomide said she was ”infuriated” that German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal ignored and covered up warnings about the anti-nausea drug her mother took while carrying her in 1961.

”I’m outraged,” she said yesterday afternoon. ”It’s been a few hours now since I read it and I’m still shaking.”

Ms Henley-Collopy said that complaints made to Grunenthal about thalidomide in 1959 and 1960 – well before the drug was banned in late 1961, about the time of her birth – meant the company might have prevented the damage that took place in the womb to her and thousands of others like her.

”If anything, one could only assume that they, Grunenthal, deliberately kept a blind eye closed. And I have to say, I think they are still doing it,” she said.

”Until we can get a firm apology and satisfactory compensation, I honestly don’t know how they can sleep. There are a lot of parents out there who have had a lot of heartbreaking nights wondering what is going to happen to their children.”

While Ms Henley-Collopy received an undisclosed amount of compensation from Diageo, the company that bought thalidomide distributor Distillers in 1997, she said it was not enough to cover the cost of her care, which includes assistance in showering and dressing.

But the former social worker said any compensation from Grunenthal, while welcome, would never take away the pain she and her family have suffered.

”It’s not going to give me arms, it’s not going to return a childhood that was very different, it’s not going to give me the husband and children that I didn’t have,” she said. ”But I am going to have growing needs as I get older and those needs will come with a financial cost.”

Julia Medew
The Age
Friday 27th July, 2012

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