The mother of an Australian thalidomide victim has broken down in tears as she described the pharmaceutical giant Grunenthal's plea for forgiveness as ''insulting''.
Wendy Rowe was speaking yesterday next to her daughter, Lynette, who settled a landmark multimillion-dollar legal case against the drug's British distributor, Diageo, in July. She said the apology from Grunenthal Group's chief executive 50 years after the company pulled the morning sickness drug off the market, was ''the sort of apology you give when you're not really sorry''.
Earlier in the day in Germany, Harald Stock said the company had remained silent for five decades because it was ''in shock'', and now wanted to apologise to the mothers who took the drug during the 1950s and '60s and their children who suffered birth defects.
But for Mrs Rowe, who sobbed as she struggled to read out a statement, the apology was hollow and hurtful. ''It's also insulting that he wants us to believe Grunenthal had not apologised for 50 years because it's been in silent shock. I suspect he might not know what shock is. Shock is having your precious child born without arms and legs … Shock is making sure your other children don't miss out on happiness, love and affection when you have a profoundly disabled child to look after. Our family couldn't have gone into silent shock. We had to get up and face each day every day and cope with the incredible damage that Grunenthal did to Lynne and our family.''
In July, The Age newspaper in Melbourne revealed the German drugmaker had ignored and covered up repeated warnings that thalidomide could damage unborn babies.
An estimated 10,000 babies worldwide - including hundreds in Australia - were born with severe physical deformities because their mothers had taken thalidomide.
Mrs Rowe was unable to finish reading her statement and had to be taken away and comforted by Peter Gordon from the law firm Slater & Gordon, which is preparing a class action on behalf of 100 thalidomide victims.
Michael Magazanik from Slater & Gordon described Mr Stack's statement as ''pathetic'' and ''riddled with further deceit''.