Editorial: Fair deal for forgotten thalidomide survivors

Last year, the Conservative government offered to compensate Canadians for a grave government error that crippled them: one-time, tax-free compensation packages of $125,000 for thalidomide victims, along with yearly payments of $25,000 to $100,00, depending on the case.

A total of 92 survivors have been accepted in the payment program, but most remain forgotten. Thalidomide was a medication, developed in Germany, prescribed for morning sickness from 1959 to 1962. It was approved for use, but never tested properly and caused babies to be born with disfigured and missing limbs and other disabilities.

Some victims simply are unable to access medical records from that time, and are in a Catch-22: They have all the symptoms of a thalidomide victim but cannot provide documentary evidence.

The administrators of the program say that some deformities resemble those associated with thalidomide, but could be unrelated to the drug, since a number or children are born with spontaneous or what the administrators calls otherwise unrelated malformations.

Obviously, some of the claims will fall into a gray area and require a judgment, based on incomplete information. The physical condition of the applicant should be given maximum weight. Health Canada says it is committed to “providing an opportunity and a process to assess unconfirmed individuals” and determine their eligibility for compensation. We urge the authorities to err on the side of compassion to help inadvertent victims of our government’s failure in this compelling tragedy.

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