Harrogate expert called in as BBC drama recreates Thalidomide birth

NADV 1203281 Guy Tweedy. (1203281AM)
NADV 1203281 Guy Tweedy. (1203281AM)

A Harrogate disability campaigner has taken a leading advisory role in a TV drama being screened this Sunday.

The latest series of the popular BBC 1 drama, Call The Midwife, now set in the early 1960s, will show a mother giving birth to a disabled baby after taking the Thalidomide drug to cure her morning sickness.

Call The Midwife  Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George), Nurse Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie). Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian.

Call The Midwife Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George), Nurse Barbara Gilbert (Charlotte Ritchie). Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian.

Guy Tweedy - together with colleagues from the National Advisory Council to the Thalidomide Trust - met with programme producers so they could get a proper understanding of the devastating impact the drug had on thousands of families.

Mr Tweedy, from Harrogate, was born with shortened arms and fingers fused together as a consequence of his mother taking the drug in the early stages of pregnancy.

The 53-year-old businessman, who, for the last 13 years, has campaigned tirelessly for compensation for survivors from both the UK and German governments, said: “Personally, I’m delighted that the producers of Call The Midwife have been brave enough to include Thalidomide in their storyline.

“We met with them late last year and talked about the timescale of when thalidomide was used, the varying degrees of disabilities it caused, and the lasting legacy it has left, not only in this country, but in Europe too.

“The Thalidomide scandal is the world’s largest man-made peacetime disaster and for us it is never ending.

“More than half a century after it was withdrawn, Thalidomide continues to have a devastating impact on those born with physical and mental disabilities.

“For the mothers who took the drug to alleviate the symptoms of severe morning sickness the guilt is as strong today as it was on the day they gave birth.”

Mr Tweedy, who has taken his campaign to both the UK and EU parliaments, added: “Today, there are just 467 Thalidomide survivors left in the UK. More than 100,000 babies died in the womb and thousands died soon after birth.

“The programme will, I hope, introduce this terrible tragedy to a new audience and highlight the difficulties we continue to endure. I also hope it will give our long running campaign for justice a massive boost.”

Developed and manufactured by German pharmaceutical giant, Chemie Grunenthal, in the late 1950s, Thalidomide was administered to pregnant women to combat the effects of morning sickness.

However, in May 1962 the drug was withdrawn after it was linked to crippling side effects in new born babies.

A least 2,000 in the UK were born with deformities brought about directly by thalidomide, and more than half of them died in the womb.