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MP Gord Brown trying to mend Thalidomide compensation program

Change may be coming to the rules that decide who qualifies for Thalidomide survivors’ compensation.

Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown was recently part of a motion by Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Health to study and assess faults in the system currently in place that compensates Thalidomide survivors. Thalidomide was sold during the late 1950s and early 1960s as a cure for anxiety, insomnia, gastritis and tension. It later became a popular cure for morning sickness. Use of the drug was linked to infant deaths and deformities, along with a number of medical problems for survivors, most commonly a kind of limb malformation called phocomelia. The drug was pulled from use as a cure for morning sickness but the standard of proof required to qualify for compensation is difficult to meet.

For survivors to qualify right now they must have documented proof that their mother took the drug, pharmaceutical records showing their mother received the drug or a sworn statement. One Thalidomide survivor points out that these documents can be very difficult for survivors to get because witnesses may have passed away and records from that long ago have often been lost or destroyed. MP Brown suggests switching to the system used by Britain where applicants are scored on a grid if they can’t produce the paper work. MP Brown says the grid looks at things like birth date, whether the drug was available where the mother was and the medical issues displayed by the survivor. Applicants scoring better than 50 percent were considered eligible for compensation even without paperwork saying their mother had taken Thalidomide.

MP Brown and members of the health committee wrote to Jane Philpott, the Minister of Health, recommending that Canada adopt a system similar to the one used by Britain. Whether these recommendations are followed is up to the Minister of Health and her staff.

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