A federal court has ordered the Brazilian government to compensate children of mothers who took thalidomide, a drug that caused birth defects in thousands of people across the world but was withdrawn tardily in Brazil.
The Federal Regional Court of Sao Paulo issued a landmark ruling on the claim for damages filed by children of thalidomide victims born without arms or legs, or with stunted members, among other birth defects.
Thalidomide was introduced in Brazil in 1957 as an anesthetic against discomforts experienced during pregnancy, but as elsewhere it resulted in severe fetal congenital defects among users.
Under the ruling, some 360 children of thalidomide victims, aged around 50, may be given compensation of up to 200,000 reais (about 100,000 dollars), 100 times what they have received thus far.
"No one is looking to get rich. What we really want is to prevent others from suffering what we did," one victim told reporters after learning of the court's decision charging the Brazilian government with negligence and irresponsibility. The ruling can be appealed.
The World Health Organization recommended banning thalidomide in 1961, but Brazil only withdrew the drug from the market in 1965. Thalidomide was reintroduced in 1966, ostensibly strictly restricted to treating leprosy and other diseases, but poor control led to birth defects in a new generation.