Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced on Monday that the country will issue a national apology to all citizens affected by the “Thalidomide tragedy.” This apology comes more than 50 years after babies were born with birth defects as a result of their mothers taking the morning sickness pill. Thalidomide, which was widely distributed in Australia and around the world in the early 1960s, was found to cause malformation of limbs, facial features, and internal organs in unborn children.
In a statement, Albanese described the thalidomide tragedy as a dark chapter in the history of Australia and the world. He acknowledged the survivors, their families, friends, and carers who have advocated for this apology with courage and conviction for many years. This long overdue national acknowledgement is a recognition of all they have endured and fought for.
The thalidomide scandal had a global impact, leading to a complete overhaul of drug-testing regimes and enhancing the reputation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA was the only authority that refused to approve the drug, even though it was distributed in the United States for testing purposes. In 2010, the British government issued an apology to the victims.
Thalidomide, developed by the German firm Gruenenthal, caused the death of an estimated 80,000 children worldwide before they were born, and an additional 20,000 children were born with defects.
In 2012, an Australian woman who was born without arms and legs due to her mother taking Thalidomide won a multi-million dollar settlement from Diageo Plc, the local distributor. In the same year, Diageo agreed to make a payment of A$50 million ($32 million) to 45 victims in Australia and New Zealand.
Albanese will deliver the apology in Parliament on November 29. Currently, there are 146 registered Thalidomide survivors in Australia, although the exact number of affected individuals is unknown.
Albanese emphasized that the apology will acknowledge not only the babies who died and the families who mourn them but also the survivors whose lives were significantly impacted by the effects of this terrible drug.
(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle)
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