The UK’s first-ever memorial to victims of the Thalidomide drug disaster is being dedicated in Harrogate on Friday. (23 November 2012)
To mark the 50th anniversary of the so-called wonder drug being withdrawn from the UK market, a 5m tall copper beech tree will be planted, and a plaque unveiled, to commemorate the babies who were born with horrific defects and the families it ultimately affected.
In May 1962 the drug – prescribed to pregnant women as a cure for morning sickness – was withdrawn after it was linked to crippling side effects in new born babies.
A least 2,000 in the UK were born with deformities brought about directly by Thalidomide, and more than half of them died within their first year. An unknown number also died in the womb.
Common deformities included missing or shortened limbs, blindness, brain damage, missing sexual organs and missing internal organs. There a total of 469 Thalidomiders still alive in the UK today.
The Thalidomide Memorial is being paid for by Harrogate businessman Guy Tweedy(pictured), himself a victim of the drug.
Mr Tweedy, who sufferers from shortened arms and fingers fused together, said:
Thalidomide was the worst man-made disaster in peace time history.
It killed thousands of babies in the womb and in their first years of life. It left thousands more with terrible deformities and affected the lives of thousands of families around the world.
For the early years we were known as the forgotten victims. No one wanted to know about our plight or admit their guilt. We have had to endure hardship, constant pain and discrimination.
The memorial being dedicated on Friday will be the first in the country. The Harrogate District has six survivors and they will all be attending this event. So too will other survivors from all over the country.
The tree is a living tribute to all those affected by the Thalidomide drug.
Mr Tweedy, 50, added he would like to personally thank Sir Harold Evans, the legendary newspaper editor who, in the early 1970s, championed the Thalidomide cause.
Mr Tweedy added:
Without Sir Harold and the staff at the Sunday Times I would dread to think where we would be today. We have had to fight for everything and the fight will continue for as long as it takes to get full justice.
The dedication ceremony, which is also being attended by local dignitaries including Members of Parliament, will be held at 11.30am on Montpellier Hill, Harrogate.