Thalidomide manufacturer apologises for first time in 50 years: AVITE responds
This story appeared in newspapers after the speech that the CEO of Grunenthal (the company that developed and marketed Thalidomide) gave at the opening of a small monument commemorating the 15,000 thalidomide victims. In his speech he apologised for the company's role in the thalidomide tragedy and said that the memorial symbolised an important milestone of a larger development. He said that it was a development towards ongoing dialogue.
Two Spanish Thalidomide survivors who are members of AVITE (Association of Victims of Thalidomide) reject the apology.
Josefina: Forgiveness was not something that worried me, but now I am outraged. It is not easy to forgive an error which so cruelly marked our lives. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, the Thalidomide tragedy is a valuable lesson in pharmaceutical history and we should all learn from it.
Joana: It is unacceptable that they have remained silent for so long and now, hiding behind the tribute/sculpture they recognise their lack of courage to talk to the victims.
Josefina: We are told to take into account that their silence is due to the impact caused to them having seen our malformations. It seems immoral to be asked comprehension.
Joana: Should we really have to comprehend the impact that the pharmaceutical company went through? Imagine the IMPACT on our families when they saw their babies with severe malformations as well as on us, as we had to bravely join society.
We were born in a country ruled by a dictatorial government that was not willing to accept its involvement in the incident and in a social era where "different people" were marginalised. We dressed up with prosthetics in an attempt to hide the medical embarrassment of Thalidomide and we were instilled with the motto: "You can do the same as others".
Was that true though? Striving to be as normal as out trying to escape our marginality was a high cost for us to pay. Physically, mentally and emotionally, but we managed to value ourselves as people! Even through we got no help to accept our limitations. In Spain it was not important for the scientific sector to develop the potential and capabilities of a malformed body, instead Spain ignored the progress made by foundations in other countries affected by the Thalidomide drug.
Our mothers were blamed: "Oh poor little thing, she's so pretty! Children have to pay for their parent's sins." We endured these phrases drilled into our brains with no medical or psychological help, nobody dared to explain the truth.
For the more fortunate children the courage of their families was crucial even though they did not know, did not have the money or time to know what to do. Other children were not so lucky as they were abandoned or killed as a result of the horror and helplessness of their families.
Joana and Josefina inserted themselves into society. They got University degrees and became civil servants. The excess effort and constant need to prove that they were just as valuable as 'the others' deteriorated their bodies and forced them to early retirement.
In Spain, the Thalidomide tragedy remains unknown to the population, including the medical sector. The association AVITE will carry on their battle to spread the word about the cause and get a better quality of life that will compensate for the lack of help and the neglect they have suffered up until now.
It's time to stop looking outward and learn to look inward. It's time to start again, but this time as Thalidomide victims. Fighting for the medical and scientific community to spare no expense and take the opportunity provided to them by the Thalidomide tragedy to investigate the evolution of their malformed bodies. A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY!
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