I was humbled to be involved recently in an event marking 50 years since the Thalidomide scandal. Many people are still living with the effects of the drug. In my letter to newspapers across London this week, I highlighted the case, as campaigners continue their fight for justice.
More than 50 years after the Thalidomide scandal was first exposed, it continues to blight the lives of thousands of people.
Born severely disabled, they experience complex health problems. The condition of many continues to decline.
As a percentage of our population, the numbers are not huge. In the whole of London and the South East, for example, the Thalidomide Trust knows of 109 Thalidomide survivors.
Perhaps that is why the severe injustice they have suffered continues without apology, correction or, in many cases across Europe, proper compensation.
I was privileged and humbled recently to host – with politicians from across the political spectrum – the European Parliament screening of a film highlighting the plight of those damaged by Thalidomide. It starkly documents not only the profound nature of their health problems, but the also grave wrong they have suffered.
The audience in Brussels was struck by their endurance, their courage and the justness of their long, long campaign.
Several EU countries have still not put in place a formal compensation scheme, while in others the payment available is not sufficient to meet victims’ health and independent living costs.
At the time of the original legal action, a lack of clear evidence prevented lawyers from making the case for a just settlement. This was particularly the case in Germany, where this supposed “wonder drug” was developed.
Knowing what we now know, surely both the German manufacturer and the German government has an obligation to meet the needs of the few remaining European Thalidomide survivors
Along with politicians from other political parties, I am urging German ministers to meet representatives of the survivors. I hope they will give sympathetic consideration of the cases of victims in Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, Sweden …and here in London and the rest of Britain.
MEP for London
Leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group