Thalidomide Triplets

Posted on May 9, 2012 | Blog Posts, Morning Sickness News Category | | Print This Article

2011 Festival of the Arts June 04, 201116
Creative Commons License photo credit: stevendepolo

We’ve talked before about the morning sickness drug Thalidomide which was given to pregnant women in the middle of the 20th century. We know that it caused a number of birth defects, and had to be taken off the market. It’s one of the truly tragic failures experienced in terms of pregnancy and childbirth medicine in the past century.

One of the more interesting stories to come out of the thalidomide mess is the story of the world’s only thalidomide triplets. Three girls – Jacqueline, Ann, and Kate Gallagher – celebrated their 50th birthday last month. These women are the only known example of triplets born to a woman taking the morning sickness drug.

Problems caused by thalidomide

The triplets are from Glasgow’s east end, and have had a number of health problems in their lives.

Ann, for example, has short limbs. This was often the case of babies born to a woman who took Thalidomide, coming from being crushed during the birthing process.

Jacqueline required a wheelchair by the time she was 22 – in 1984. Kate has experienced dislocated joints many times over the years.

Never compensated

Most of the victims of thalidomide received compensation. The family did not, as doctors wouldn’t admit that the triplets had been affected by the drug. Parents Doris and Pat had nine other children when the triplets were born, making it much of a struggle growing up.

The girls struggled through school and worked for a short time in various industries, but were eventually unable to work because of their worsening conditions.

A positive spin

The sisters, loathe to wallow in self-pity, have maintained a positive attitude about their lives. They recognize that their symptoms are milder than many babies affected by thalidomide.

In the 1980s, the girls began to understand that they’d been affected by the morning sickness drug. After years of struggling, they finally received their due compensation in 1995.

It’s estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 babies were born in the UK and affected by Thalidomide use in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, when the drug was finally banned.

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