Australia apologizes to thalidomide survivors

The Australian government presented an official apology on Wednesday, November 29, to the victims of thalidomide, a drug that caused malformations in thousands of children around the world in the 1950s and 1960s

Australia apologizes to thalidomide survivors

The Australian government presented an official apology on Wednesday, November 29, to the victims of thalidomide, a drug that caused malformations in thousands of children around the world in the 1950s and 1960s.

“We owe an apology to the Australians who were victims of thalidomide,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in front of survivors in the House of Representatives on the 62nd anniversary of the drug's withdrawal from the market. “Today, Australia will finally apologize,” he continued. “This apology addresses one of the darkest chapters in our history. »

Described at the time as a “wonder drug,” thalidomide was prescribed from 1956 as a sedative to relieve nausea in pregnant women. Widely used around the world, it had terrible effects on the embryo before it was withdrawn from the market in 1961: between 10,000 and 20,000 babies were born with missing arm or leg segments, hands or feet directly attached to the trunk.

Australian obstetrician William McBride was one of the first doctors to sound the alarm in 1961, noting that women were more likely to give birth to babies with stunted growth or malformation after taking this medicine. According to the Australian government, there are around 150 thalidomide survivors benefiting from the Australian support program.