Thalidomide Memorial, Cardiff

Thalidomide Memorial, Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff

This memorial was unveiled in 2016 to commemorate all people who were affected by the drug thalidomide. Its intention is: to mark the lives and achievements of Thalidomide-impaired people in the UK and across the globe; to remember Thalidomiders, parents and loved ones who sadly did not survive to live a long, full and active life; and honour those who worked to secure justice for those people touched by the tragedy.

Thalidomide was a drug taken by pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s for a range of ailments, but which sadly resulted in their babies being born with impairments that included missing limbs, sensory impairments, learning difficulties and internal organ damage.

Thalidomide was developed in the 1950s by a German drugs company. It’s widely believed that it was first synthesised as a sleep-inducing drug in 1944 and tested on prisoners in the Nazis’ notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. From 1955 it was marketed as a “wonder drug” and “completely safe” for people suffering from insomnia, headaches, coughs, morning sickness and other things.

The drug was first marketed in the UK and the Commonwealth in 1958. By 1961 German and Australian physicians were noting an increase in children born with grossly malformed limbs. After intense pressure, the drug was eventually withdrawn in Germany in November 1961, with its withdrawal in the UK following quickly thereafter.

Nobody knows how many babies were affected by Thalidomide. Some estimates suggest there were 100,000 worldwide and more than 2,000 in the UK. Many of the babies and children died at an early age.

The main protagonist for the siting of the Thalidomide Memorial in Alexandra Gardens was Cardiff born writer and artist Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds OBE – herself Thalidomide impaired. She, with her husband Stephen and life-long friend Eddie Freeman (both Ed and Stephen are also Thalidomide-impaired) wanted to ensure that the story of Thalidomide would never be forgotten. After a seven-year campaign, which had the backing of individuals and businesses across the UK, the Thalidomide Memorial - To Remember is to Care was dedicated on 30 June 2016.

With thanks to Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds

The Thalidomide Memorial website

Website of Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds – includes more information on thalidomide

 

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