Tag Archives: Thalidomide

Born with malformed limbs 52 years ago, thalidomide victim still fights for compensation

Noëlla Hébert isn’t scared of anything.

The 52-year-old from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, who was born missing an arm and with malformations in her other limbs, says after a lifetime of fighting for acceptance and compensation, there isn’t anything left for her to be afraid of.

“I fought all my life to be to be looked at as a normal person,” she said. “This has been a battle from the beginning.”

Hébert is one of three New Brunswickers who were rejected from a 2015 federal compensation program for thalidomide victims. They have been arguing even since that they deserve to be recognized, compensated and given assistance for their far-reaching physical disabilities.

‘I took a drug, Noëlla’

Hébert grew up in rural Kent County knowing she was different and knowing her mother carried an enormous burden of guilt.

“I can remember my mom always said, ‘I took a drug, I took a drug, Noëlla, I took a drug.’ But me, I didn’t understand that … you always have in the back of your mind, ‘Why did she take that pill?'”

Hébert, at six, along with her mother, father and two older brothers in a family photo from 1974. Hébert says everyone in her family supported her, no matter what she wanted to do. (Submitted by Noëlla Hébert)

Thalidomide, promoted as a treatment for morning sickness, was approved and arrived in Canada as samples in 1959.

Canada was one of the last countries to pull it from the shelves in 1962, but Hébert and others believe it was still in circulation in rural New Brunswick for years after.

Her mother, Marie, said that’s what the local doctor gave her in 1967.

“She took sick,” said Hébert. “She had a very sore stomach. She had insomnia. She couldn’t sleep. And my grandma had just died. So that was the creation of all that.”

She explained that in the 1960s, when the village doctor gave you a bottle of pills, you didn’t ask questions.

“People were ignorant. They thought that medication were miracle cures,” said Hébert. “Back then, when you had an ailment if you could have the help of a doctor — that was God.”

Hébert was born without a left arm and with severe malformations in her other limbs. Her right leg is very short and attaches directly to her torso with muscles. She has no hips. A surgery was performed to turn her foot to allow her to use her heel as a make shift knee in her prosthetic leg. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

There is no record that proves that the bottle of pills given to Hébert’s mother in 1967 contained thalidomide. There were few pharmacies in rural New Brunswick, and it was common for doctors to give medication directly to their patients. The lack of a prescription kept Hébert and 166 others from being part of a federal compensation program for victims in 2015.

“It was just a bottle of pills that was given from one hand to the other,” she said. “And so I did not have the documents that the government wanted but I still was a thalidomide victim.”

‘We got to push’

A 30-minute drive from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Paul Richard was born in Rogersville in 1969 with malformed arms.

He believes his shorter-than-normal right arm, twisted hand and malformed left arm are the result of his mother also taking thalidomide.

Paul Richard, seen here after having several surgeries on his right arm, told his parents at the age of seven that he didn’t want to undergo any more operations. He says he ‘made do’ with his deformed right arm and went on to be a heavy equipment operator. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

“She was given a pill to alleviate nausea during her pregnancy and back then, well, they just took whatever doctors gave them and didn’t question anything,” he said.

Richard had three major surgeries on his right arm as a young child and remembers telling his parents when he was seven years old that he wasn’t going to have any more.

“I made do with what I had,” he said. “I played hockey all my life — I wasn’t Wayne Gretzky but I had fun.”

As far as he knows, his legs are fine. Richard jokes he’s always been able to “run from trouble.”

The husband and father of two worked as a heavy equipment operator at his father’s business when he finished school. When he could no longer cope with the physical demands, he changed careers and became a highway maintenance supervisor and now works in an office.

Richard worked for years as a heavy equipment operator until the pain in his good arm sent him to a doctor, and he found out his good arm was also malformed. He considers himself lucky to have been able to change careers twice in his life. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

Richard said he probably would have given up his battle for compensation, but Hébert is his mentor and if she keeps fighting, he will too.

“Thank God for Noëlla. I would give up but she keeps on telling me, ‘We got to push.'”

‘My body is my record’

Hébert, Richard and another New Brunswick man, from Val-Comeau, near Tracadie-Sheila, were among the 167 people who were rejected from the 2015 Thalidomide Survivors Contribution Program, which included a lump sum payment of $ 125,000, ongoing support payments and access to a medical assistance fund.

We’re not fraudsters, we are victims.-Noëlla Hébert

Even though their mothers have both signed affidavits saying they took thalidomide while they were pregnant, and even though genetics reports and doctors all point to thalidomide as the cause of their disabilities, neither Richard nor Hébert qualified.

“They put us all in the same basket that we would all try to fraud the system,” Hébert said of the third-party the government hired to determine who would qualify for the government program.

“But we’re not fraudsters, we are victims. It’s really really clear to see my body is my record — When you see me you can’t unsee me.”

Hébert has a prosthetic leg and has undergone several surgeries on both legs to allow her to walk. She has no hips and explains her legs are held in place with muscles. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Gesturing to her missing left arm, she points out the tip of a finger that pokes out of her shoulder. Her right arm looks normal, but has four skeletal malformations, including a thumb that is more like a fifth finger.

Her “good leg” does not have a hip and she has required reconstructive surgeries to allow her to walk. On the other side, she has a very short leg that is attached to her torso, again with no hip. She has undergone a surgery to turn her small foot backwards so she can use her heel as a makeshift knee in her prosthetic leg.

Forgotten victims

After 52 years, Hébert explained, her continued fight isn’t about the money.

She wants Canadians to recognize that she and others have lived their entire lives with severe disabilities and discrimination.

Hébert considers herself one of the “lucky” survivors, because she was born with a “firecracker personality” and a family who saw her as normal.

“My mom says that … when she looks at me, yes, I’m deformed. But when she looks aside she pictures me as a normal child. That’s the picture she had to create in her mind to be able to cope with this.”

Hébert uses a scooter to get around her home. She does not have a ramp to get into the house and bought the scooter at a bargain price from a seller on Kijiji. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Hébert laughs as she remembers her big brother’s reaction when, as a child, she told him she wanted to learn to swim.

“He said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ There was no, ‘How are we going to do that?’ or ‘You can’t do it.'”

Hébert went on to attend university and to become a lawyer. It was one of the most difficult times of her life not because of the academics, but because it was nearly impossible for her to walk from her dorm at the University of Moncton to her classes.

“When you only have one leg and you have to walk in three inches of snow and the leg’s not going — that was my biggest, biggest challenge,” she said. “How many times I fell on the snow, in the snow with my 50 pounds of books on my back and came to my dorm crying and called my dad, my mom.”

Hébert graduated from the University of Moncton law school and has been a practising lawyer for more than 20 years. (Submitted by Noella Hebert)

Again, Hébert’s family encouraged her not to give up when she was ready to quit.

“My dad would say, ‘Well go to bed, pray, put some A535 [medicated cream] and the first thing I want you to do when you open your eyes, call me and tell me how is it going.’ And just on cue the next day it was always going a little bit better.”

Hopes rise and fall

In January 2019, Hébert and Richard were hopeful once again when then minister of health Ginette Petipas-Taylor announced a new compensation program for those turned down in 2015.

We didn’t ask for that pill to be introduced in Canada, but we had to deal with the consequence.– Paul Richard

The Canadian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program promised a one-time payment of $ 250,000, annual payments based on the person’s level of disability and access to a medical assistance fund.

But their hopes were quickly extinguished. This time the hurdle wasn’t missing documents, it was birth dates.

The first step of the preliminary screening for the new program is that you were born within five years of March 2, 1962, when thalidomide was pulled from shelves in Canada.

Noëlla Hébert, a lawyer born with one arm and malformed limbs is one of three New Brunswickers still fighting in court to be recognized as victims of thalidomide. 3:44

“They said, ‘Well if the drug was still on the shelves after five years that we pulled it off the market, it should have been expired.’ And then they added nine months for the birth of the child,” Hébert said.

Anyone born after Dec. 21, 1967, will not be considered for compensation in this latest program. Hébert was born five weeks too late, on Jan. 31, 1968.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen but I’m not surprised,” she said. “We supposedly die about 10 years to 15 years younger of what we are supposed to. They’re just playing with time.”

Quest for closure, compensation

“We always miss the boat,” said Richard.

For him, the compensation would “help immensely,” but more important would be to finally be recognized as a victim.

“I know everyone wants something from the government,” he said. “We didn’t ask for that pill to be introduced in Canada, but we had to deal with the consequence.”

Richard understands the fact that his birthday also falls outside of the eligible dates is a hurdle, but he hopes it won’t be insurmountable.

Richard, seen here with his wife and two daughters, says being recognized as a victim of thalidomide would give him some closure. He says victims have suffered their entire lives because Canada allowed the drug to be sold. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

He is calling on the Canadian government to consider what life was like back in the 1960s in rural New Brunswick. It was a time when doctors handed out medication, and no one threw anything away.

“All those medications could have stayed in a medicine cabinet for a few years and when they needed it, they would take it.”

Like Hébert, he worries his body will continue to deteriorate, and he will need more support as he gets older.

Judge urges government to reconsider

The legal battle for Hébert and Richard continues. This month they appealed a ruling by Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan that would effectively close the door to them ever receiving any compensation.

Lawyer Alyssa Tomkins, a partner with Caza Saikaley, is representing Hébert and Richard, along with another New Brunswicker, pro bono.

She explained the 167 people who were refused government compensation in 2015 had launched a class-action lawsuit, which was settled in May.

Lawyer Alyssa Tomkins is appealing a court ruling that settles a class action lawsuit by thalidomide survivors. The settlement order, which is tied to a 2019 compensation program, would leave Hébert and Richard out. (http://www.plaideurs.ca)

The settlement order applies to all members of the suit, including Hébert and Richard, and means they have to accept the new 2019 program, even though it excludes them and 40 others based on their birth dates.

Tomkins is arguing that based on the negative or “deleterious” effects of the settlement on so many class members, the order should be set aside.

“Effectively, the settlement provides little benefit, we’ve alleged, to class members within the birth date framework. And yet it’s devastating to those outside it,” she said.

Let’s work with integrity and let’s show our hearts. We may have done mistakes in the past but it’s never too late to show compassion.– Noëlla Hébert

Tomkins worries that if the settlement holds up, it will make it “extremely difficult” for victims to ever get the government aid they are entitled to.

In his ruling, Phelan also raised concern about the birth date parameters set by the 2019 compensation program and said there was a “less than clear” explanation from government as to why it was necessary.

“Canada’s explanation for its rigid approach, while coldly scientific, lacked the compassion for the individual which the government espoused,” he wrote.

In his May decision, Justice Michael Phelan encourages the government of Canada to reconsider birth date requirements that exclude at least 42 people from a new compensation program for thalidomide survivors. (Federal Court of Canada)

“Some of the individuals failed to qualify by a matter of a few weeks — their stories were tragic and compelling. Class counsel recognized the problem but on this issue Canada was intractable.”

Phelan said if it was within the power of the court, he would have struck out the date parameters.

“Regrettably, the court is powerless to do anything about this issue, other than to encourage a compassionate reconsideration.”

Phelan goes on to acknowledge that class members are advancing in age and have increasing requirements because of their disabilities.

“Time is not their friend, if not yet their enemy.”

Despite this setback, Hébert is undeterred and ever hopeful that the many politicians she has met with over the years will reconsider and put an end to this “nonsense.”

“It’s never too late. We can say, ‘The past was the past. Let’s talk with integrity now. Let’s work with integrity and let’s show our hearts.’ We may have done mistakes in the past but it’s never too late to show compassion.”

‘I am a hero of history’

Hébert’s sense of humour is still in tact as she talks about some of the accommodations she needs to continue to live in her own home.

“I don’t have a ramp to bring my scooter with me in my truck. I don’t have a ramp outside my door. I don’t have the [modified] steering wheel because my steering wheel is too heavy for me to turn on my SUV.”

“It costs an arm and a leg — which I don’t have,” she jokes.

Compensation would allow Hébert to afford accommodations such as a ramp for her home, a ramp to be able to transport her scooter in her truck and an adaptive device to allow her to continue to drive. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

She knows the body she was born with will never allow her to do what her spirit would like, but she still looks forward to a day with simple accommodations — raised garden beds, for instance, so she can grow plants on her deck.

“It’s about the recognition of being who I am,” she said.

“I am a hero of history. I’ve conquered the world with a not normal body and instead of looking at us with eyes of pity, they should say to us, ‘Oh my God — you’re champions. You should have a medal.'”

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Thalidomide class action in Canada to proceed as Federal Court overturns ruling

Thalidomide survivors have won the go-ahead in Canada to challenge a compensation program. 

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that a lower court judge was wrong to deny class-action certification, and appointed Bruce Wenham as representative plaintiff.

Toronto-born Wenham, 60, says he was born with deformed arms because his mother took thalidomide during pregnancy.

However, the government turned him and 167 others down for compensation because they had no proof of the link to the now-defunct drug.

Wenham argued the documentary proof requirements were unreasonable, and the Federal Court said the Appeal Court erred by citing a specific section of the Federal Courts Act to reject Wenham's position.

The Federal Court of Appeal said Wenham's case meets the criteria for a class action to proceed, though it stressed it was not an assessment of how likely it is that the plaintiffs' claims would ultimately be successful.

In the 1990s, the federal government distributed lump-sum payments of between $ 52,000 and $ 82,000 to 109 people affected by thalidomide. 

In 2014, finding that compensation insufficient to cover their medical needs, the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, then representing about 120 survivors, requested that the federal government provide an additional lump sum of $ 250,000 person and annual payments of $ 75,000 to $ 150,000 each. 

In 2015, the federal government announced a $ 125,000 lump-sum payment to each thalidomide survivor and an annual pension from the government of up to $ 100,000.

To qualify, one had to have received payments under the 1990 plan or apply before the end of May 2016, provided they satisfied a number of documentary proof requirements that they had been affected.

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'Good news' coming soon for thalidomide survivors, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons today that an announcement is coming shortly on expanded compensation for thalidomide survivors.

Trudeau reminded MPs the government’s recent budget mentioned the issue.

“We announced in Budget 2018 we will expand the thalidomide survivors contribution program to ensure that more survivors receive the financial support that they need,” he said. “We will have more good news to share shortly on this issue.”

He was answering a question from Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt, who began by saying the question was actually written by Conservative MP Gord Brown, who died suddenly Wednesday.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt asks late Ontario MP Gord Brown’s final question in question period, about thalidomide survivors. Brown died Wednesday in his Parliament Hill office.1:07

She said Brown “had anticipated asking it in the House this week.”

Raitt said Brown was concerned that two months had elapsed without an announcement since the federal government promised to expand the compensation program in the budget.

Thalidomide was first marketed in West Germany in 1957 by the Chemie Grunenthal company. The company promoted it as effective against a number of conditions, but its primary use was as a sedative.

Thalidomide was found to cause life-altering medical problems and deformities in infants when their mothers took the drug while pregnant.

The federal government set up the Thalidomide Survivors Contribution program in 2015 to provide financial assistance to thalidomide survivors.

It offers a tax-free lump sum payment to cover urgent health care needs, and ongoing annual payments based on level of disability.

There is also an Extraordinary Medical Assistance Fund to help with medical expenses not covered by provincial health care plans, such as specialized surgery.

The problem faced by some thalidomide survivors is that they do not have the necessary documents to prove their mothers took the drug.

A group of thalidomide survivors say Kent Hehr, minister responsible for people with disabilities, made the comments during a recent meeting on compensation they were promised. Hehr doesn’t deny making some of the statements, but says they have been misconstrued by the group4:38

Last December, a group of thalidomide survivors came to Ottawa to meet with Kent Hehr, then the minister for disabilities, and complained afterwards he was insulting and belittling.

The group later met with the federal health minister, who asked her department to investigate their concerns.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s office said there will be more to say on this file within the next few weeks.

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Thalidomide disaster: background to the compensation debate

At a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, a new organization, the Thalidomide Survivors’ Task Group, said that at a meeting on Oct. 19, federal disabilities minister Kent Hehr “managed to insult and degrade us repeatedly.”

While those kinds of comments are sure to get the media’s attention — and they certainly did —  the group is demanding the federal government double the compensation it agreed to pay in 2015, pointing today to “the government’s negligence.”

A documentary broadcast on CBC’s Documentary Channel earlier this year, No Limits, says thalidomide “was the worst drug disaster in history,” while in 2014 the Guardian called it a “pharmaceutical outrage.”

What is thalidomide?

Thalidomide was first marketed in West Germany in 1957 by the Chemie Grunenthal company. The company promoted it as effective against a number of conditions but its primary use was as a sedative.

Under the brand name Contergan, Grunenthal promoted the “absolute non-toxicity” and “safeness” of the drug.

Thalidomide was soon given to pregnant women for nausea and morning sickness. In some countries it could be purchased without a prescription.

Where was thalidomide available?

Thalidomide was available in 46 countries, including Canada.

When was thalidomide sold in Canada?

Canadian doctors began to receive samples of thalidomide in 1959 but sales did not begin until April 1961, under the brand names Kevadon and Talimol. The licensee was the Merrell Company, based in the United States.

By April 1961, there were already warnings about thalidomide and malformed babies, as well as nerve damage in adults.

Thalidomide Survivors 20171205

Members of the Thalidomide Survivors’ Task Group hold a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Clockwise from left are Fiona Sampson, Mary Ryder, Alexandra Niblock and Lee Ann Dalling. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

What happened in the U.S.?

Thalidomide was not sold in the U.S. until 1998 (for treatment of complications related to leprosy, and in 2006 for multiple myeloma).

A Canadian pharmacologist, Frances Oldham, is credited for blocking thalidomide approval in the U.S. when it was promoted as a wonder drug elsewhere. As an employee at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Oldham wasn’t convinced the drug was safe. 

Oldham died in London, Ont., in 2015.

Canadian thalidomide ‘hero’ dies at 1011:49

U.S. doctors did hand out sample tablets and at least 17 children were born in the U.S. with thalidomide-induced malformations.

What were the impairments for babies whose mothers had taken thalidomide while pregnant?

According to the U.K.’s Ministry of Health, children could “suffer reduction deficiencies of the limbs, malformations of the eyes, ears and deafness, defects of the heart and kidneys and malformations of the alimentary system.”

Phocomelia is the most severe impairment, the U.K.’s Thalidomide Society says, “a condition where the long bones of some or all limbs are misshapen and where the hands and feet, which can be either mostly fully-formed, malformed or rudimentary, arise almost on the trunk.”

The Society lists a wide spectrum of limb disabilities caused by the drug.

“The drug harmed the developing foetus only if taken in the first three months of pregnancy,” according to the Society.

When was thalidomide withdrawn?

The first thalidomide-affected baby was born in 1956, to a Grunenthal employee in West Germany, before the drug was marketed.

By 1961, Australian obstetrician William McBride had informed the Australian distributor that he had evidence thalidomide could lead to malformed babies and published a letter in the Lancet, a leading medical publication. 

There was also increasing evidence in Germany in 1961 that thalidomide was responsible for a spike in newborns’ limb malformations. 

By October, Grunenthal had internal evidence their drug was responsible for the malformations but continued to tell doctors thalidomide was safe.

On Nov. 27, Grunenthal withdrew the drug from the West German market. A few days later it was also off the market in the U.K. and Australia.

Thalidomide survivors

An emotional Mercedes Benegbi, a thalidomide survivor and executive director of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, celebrates on Parliament Hill after the House of Commons voted to compensate survivors of thalidomide in December 2014. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

In Canada the drug remained on the market until March 1962.

Thalidomide was available in Spain until 1965.

What are the numbers?

Worldwide, an estimated 24,000 babies were born with thalidomide-induced malformations. An additional 123,000 stillbirths and miscarriages were due to thalidomide, according to conservative estimates.

In Canada, the drug was responsible for over 100 children born with severe defects.

In West Germany, that number was about 6,000, and in the U.K., 2,000.

What compensation have Canadian victims received?

In the 1990s, the federal government distributed lump-sum payments of between $ 52,000 and $ 82,000 to 109 thalidomide victims. 

In 2014, finding that compensation insufficient to cover their medical needs, the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, then representing about 120 survivors, requested the federal government provide additional $ 250,000 lump-sum payments and annual payments of $ 75,000 to $ 150,000. 

In 2015, the federal government announced a $ 125,000 lump-sum payment to thalidomide survivors and an annual pension from the government of up to $ 100,000.

Thalidomide Survivors say they were degraded by the Disabilities Minister1:57

Kent Hehr speaks with reporters7:05

‘We were all stunned’7:11

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'Everyone … has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Members of a thalidomide survivor group say they felt belittled and are appalled after meeting with Kent Hehr, the federal minister for persons with disabilities, and accuse him of making repugnant statements about their life expectancies.

The minister flat out denies at least one of their claims and said he has apologized if some of his comments were misinterpreted.

Fiona Sampson, a thalidomide survivor who attended the Oct. 19 meeting, told reporters on Tuesday that Hehr degraded those in attendance with his remarks. 

“In response to members of the group reading really heartfelt testimonials, Minister Hehr — apropos of nothing — commented, ‘Well you don’t have it as bad today as adults as you did when you were kids,'” said Sampson, a human rights lawyer and chair of Thalidomide Survivors Task Group.

“Then he went on to say, ‘Well you don’t have it so bad. Everyone in Canada has a sob story.'”

Sampson said one of the most repugnant statements in the 30-minute meeting came after the group explained to Hehr that they have shortened lifespans and have already lost five members since the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to support survivors back in 2014.

“He said to us, ‘So you probably have about 10 years left then now. That’s good news for the Canadian government.’ We were shocked and appalled,” she said.

One of the members in that meeting was hospitalized in the ICU two weeks later, said Sampson, making his comments “especially repugnant” 

Thalidomide Survivors say they were degraded by the Disabilities Minister1:57

Sampson said her team wrote to the prime minister directly about the meeting and Hehr later called her to apologize.

In a statement, Hehr denied making comments about lifespans at the meeting, but said he apologized to the organization after his comments were misconstrued.

“My heart goes out to thalidomide survivors. I have listened to their stories and I know our government, led by the minister of health, is taking the concerns very seriously and I will continue to advocate on behalf of all Canadians with disabilities,” said Hehr in a statement issued Tuesday.

“As someone with a disability myself, it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. While some of my comments were misconstrued, as soon as I learned that my comments were felt to be offensive, I immediately called the organization directly and apologized.”

Kent Hehr speaks with reporters7:05

Sampson also alleges at one moment in the meeting Hehr was feigning shock and reached out to grab one of the members by the arm, close to her breast.

“In a way that was inappropriate and and unwelcome. And I think that was a shock to us all too,” said Sampson. 

“It was an unwelcomed physical contact that violated her personal space.”

The member in question is sick and wasn’t at the news conference, she added.

Hehr said today was the first time he’s hearing about the accusations.

“Last week I spoke directly to the organization to apologize if my comments were misconstrued, but today was the first time I heard about this accusation and I am extremely troubled by it. If there was any physical contact, it was completely accidental and I apologize,” he said.

Thalidomide Survivors 20171205

Members of the Thalidomide Survivors Task Group hold a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. From left to right are Fiona Sampson, Mary Ryder, Lee Ann Dalling and Alexandra Niblock. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The survivors are calling on the federal government to honour a pledge to compensate them with a lump sum payment of $ 250,000 and increased annual pensions.

They say patients have received lump sum payments of $ 125,000 each, noting they are struggling to make ends meet due to the extent of their disabilities.

In December 2014, the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion with a commitment to provide “full support’ to Canadian thalidomide victims who were born with physical disabilities due to the effects of the drug, used to combat morning sickness, during pregnancy.

Complicating the plot line, a group called the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada released a statement distancing itself from Tuesday’s bombshell press conference. 

Hehr faces Opposition Questions1:46

“These survivors are not members of the original thalidomide survivors task force and did not participate in the work that went into developing the settlement program that was announced in 2015,” said executive director Mercedes Benegbi.

“While no amount of financial support will ever be enough to compensate these individuals for the pain and suffering they’ve endured, the program that exists today is making a significant difference in the lives of thalidomide survivors and is allowing them to live with dignity.”

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