One unique aspect of many birth injury lawsuits is the length of time that often exists between the harm and the ultimate recovery. In a typical Illinois personal injury case, the individual is injured, the one responsible for the harm is known immediately, and a suit progresses to ensure the victim has the proper resources necessary to recover. However, in birth injury cases, the specific cause of the problem is often not known for years-or decades-down the road. This presents legal complexities.
For example, an editorial in the Seattle Personal Inquirer on a new birth defect lawsuit illustrates this problem well. Over the years, it has come out that certain drug manufacturing companies knew of risks that their products presented to unborn children. When expectant mothers or those who were working to get pregnant took these medications, the risk of the child suffering from a birth defect rose considerably. One of the most prominent was thalidomide-a drug widely used in the late 1950s and early 1960s to ease morning sickness of pregnant women. The drug was ultimately discovered to cause serious birth defects; many children died or were deformed as a result of their mother being prescribed the drug.
It was assumed by most that the problem was isolated mostly to Europe, because thalidomide was rarely used in the United States. In fact, for the last fifty years this assumption has held-most assume American children were not affected by the problem. Yet, newly uncovered evidence suggests that assumption may be incorrect. Some experts are now suggesting that there may have been many thalidomide victims in the United States.
A recent birth injury lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a few victims born decades ago after their parents in the U.S. were given the dangerous drug. Those working on the case have uncovered information that shows that the German company which developed the drug, created a distribution agreement for the drug in 1959. The American company which was part of the agreement then began conducting human trials, including trials on pregnant women. They did this while conceding that they had no access to human clinical safety data.
The company eventually expanded their effort to make and sell the drug in the US. They renamed it Kevadon, and began a “Kevadon Hospital Program” to continue using the drug in an ultimate effort to spur wide sales across the country. All told, more than 2.5 million doses of the drug were given to up to 20,000 patients. By late 1961 German doctors began suspecting the drug was causing a rash of defects. Thalidomide was soon pulled from German shelves. However, its maker continued to claim that it was safe, and efforts in the U.S. continued unabated. Many more patients received the drug even after its dangers were clear.
It was only several months later that the trials stopped and the American company scraped efforts to sell the dangerous drug. Later, when the significant number of defects were made wide knowledge, American drug manufacturers tried to reassure residents by claiming that the drug was never sold in the U.S. Of course, this ignored the fact that more than 1.5 million doses had in fact been distributed to 20,000 patients by at least 1,200 different doctors across the country. Many of those prescribed the drugs ultimately had children with defects.
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