Memorial to once-forgotten victims of Thalidomide drug disaster unveiled

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A victim of Thalidomide dedicated the country’s first-ever memorial to victims of the drug disaster in Harrogate yesterday.

In May 1962 the drug – prescribed to pregnant women as a cure for morning sickness – was withdrawn after it was linked to crippling side effects in new born babies.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the drug being withdrawn from the UK market, a 5m tall copper beech tree was planted, and a plaque unveiled to commemorate the babies who were born with horrific defects and the families it ultimately affected.

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.

The memorial has been paid for by Harrogate businessman Guy Tweedy, himself a victim of the drug.

Mr Tweedy, 50, who sufferers from shortened arms and fingers fused together, said yesterday: “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.”

He said the memorial would be the first in the country. Those attending yesterday morning’s dedication service in Montpellier Hill, Harrogate, included survivors of the tragedy from across the country and local dignitaries.

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 and the Harrogate District has six survivors.