Letter: Compensation for Thalidomide victims

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The Independent Online
Sir: I refer to the article written about me, "Nobody can give him limbs. But what about more cash?" (23 June). I allowed your reporter, Esther Oxford, into my house for a full 24 hours so that she could provide your readers with an insight into the life of the severely disabled. In addition, I hoped to be able to explain why I set up the Thalidomide Action Group and the aims of the many people working within it. The current financial provisions are wholly inadequate, in many cases providing as little as pounds 5,000 per annum after tax, and a great deal of hard work has been put into rectifying this unsatisfactory state of affairs. I was therefore extremely disappointed and indeed saddened by the sneering tone adopted by your reporter, who clearly has no understanding of what it is like to be totally dependent on others 24 hours a day.

I would like to deal with three, in particular, of the misreportings in Ms Oxford's article, as I would not like them to affect the campaign to persuade Guinness to recognise fully its responsibility to the victims of Thalidomide. First, I did not at any stage mention to your reporter that my own income would increase by pounds 25,000. Second, the proposals would allow for indexation and this is very important because the present Trust is not so linked, despite what Ms Oxford may think. Finally, I did not mention a figure of pounds 50,000 as the amount that would be paid to dependents in the event of a victim's death.

The campaign is for adequate compensation for victims. This compensation should be forthcoming because of the severity of the disabilities and culpability of Distillers (now owned by Guinness plc). I did not plead poverty and therefore Ms Oxford's snide comments about my house (in which I am restricted to the ground floor, being unable to get upstairs), my car (which is leased from Motability), my children and my wife are irrelevant, indefensible and inept. I am surprised your reporter believes my wife should work, despite having four children and a four-limb deficient disabled husband to care for all day and all night.

I would like to issue a challenge to Ms Oxford. If she would be prepared to live my life for just one week, I believe that she would have a far better understanding of the problems faced by disabled people everywhere. I am, however, aware that the sort of person who writes such errant nonsense as she has done is most probably not the sort of person who would want to understand the plight of those less fortunate than herself.


F. G. Astbury

The Thalidomide

Action Group UK


27 June