Letter: Compensation for Thalidomide victims

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Sir: As legal adviser to the Thalidomide Action Group, I must correct the impression given by Esther Oxford about our proposals. Comparisons with other disabled people are unhelpful. The Thalidomide victims' situation is very different. In this case, there is a clearly defined group of people who suffered as a result of a widely acknowledged medical blunder.

The Government has given its formal backing to structured settlements, which are a tax-efficient way of paying and receiving damages. The long- term financial and medical problems of the Thalidomide victims would be resolved once and for all should Guinness accept the proposals put to it by the advisers of the Thalidomide Action Group.

The net effect would be to increase the sum received by each victim annually by approximately 50 per cent, but this would largely be because of the tax-efficient nature of structured settlements. In addition, a one-off payment would be received by all victims to compensate for the inadequacy of the 1973 settlement and the payments since.

Your article points out that Mr Astbury's pounds 33,000 would be worth approximately pounds 200,000 today. It is noteworthy that a plaintiff incurring the injuries suffered by Mr Astbury would today expect to receive in court an amount in the region of six times this figure.

Finally, the proposals put to Guinness allow for "death benefit". At present, if a victim dies, all payments from the Thalidomide Trust cease and their dependents are left unprovided for.

These proposals do not involve bottomless bags of cash. In fact, if accepted, they could be achieved at a cost to Guinness of just 8 per cent of its profits last year, spread over a 10-year period.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Lingard