The damage done by Thalidomide - This week on AUSTRALIAN STORY

image - ABC

Thalidomide was marketed around the world as a wonder drug for anxiety and was also used for morning sickness in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Thousands of women trusted their doctors and took the pills in good faith, only to be faced with newborn babies born with catastrophic disabilities.

“Part of the cruelty for mum is that she only took two tablets,” says Australian survivor Lisa McManus. “As soon as I was born my father was ushered out of the delivery suite (and) my mother distinctly remembers the midwife screaming.”

Born in March 1963, Lisa McManus is one of Australia’s youngest survivors. She’s now taking the fight to Canberra, in the hope that historic wrongs can finally be righted.

Faced with ageing bodies and struggling to cope with degenerative disabilities, ‘Thalidomide Group Australia’ want justice, more financial compensation and, most importantly for many of them, an apology and recognition of what they feel was the failure of past governments to warn their mothers about the risks of Thalidomide.

“Thalidomide was the greatest pharmaceutical disaster in the world’s history and the consequences for Australian families are still being felt today. It destroyed families, it destroyed lives.” Peter Gordon, solicitor.

Lisa’s advocacy has prompted a Senate Inquiry into the Australian government’s handling of Thalidomide which will release its final report in late March.

She remains close to her mother who is now 92 and in a nursing home.

“It was always there,” said Beryl Croucher during a recent visit filmed by Australian Story. “What was always there, Mum?” asked her daughter. “The feeling of guilt,” said her mother. “And it’s still there.”

Driven by a conviction that more needs to be done to align the Australian government with new initiatives around the world to support survivors, Lisa is convinced this is the last chance for justice.

“We weren’t just wronged, it was our parents as well,” she says.

Australian Story’s A BITTER PILL airs Monday March 11 at 8pm on ABC TV and ABC iview.