It was supposed to bring relief from morning sickness for pregnant women, but the use of thalidomide in the 1950s came at a great cost: severe, debilitating birth defects. Now, the 45 remaining thalidomide survivors in Australia and New Zealand will finally get some retribution in the form of a shared annual payment of $3 million for at least 20 years.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, drug company Diageo, which owns the company that distributed thalidomide, agreed to the compensation for decades of suffering expensive disabilities including deformed limbs. The company previously paid what it called “a full and final payment” to victims in 1974, but that money has long since run out.
Barry de Geest, who was born with no arms and misshapen legs, reacted emotionally to the news.
"Wearing glasses and not being able to take them on and off is a real hassle, so now with this payment I'll be able to go out and get my eyes lasered," de Geest told New Zealand's 3News.
"I really want to give my mother a holiday because my mother saved me really, because they wanted to put me in an institution."
Ken Youdale, the 84-year-old father of one victim, negotiated the deal with Diageo and praised the company's receptiveness. Youdale's daughter Nicole died from the effects of thalidomide in 2003.
"Diageo has been compassionate and very understanding, and incredibly generous,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The 1974 payments were full and final settlements and this is, therefore, ex-gratia payments which they didn't need to make at all.