Thalidomide victims win new payments

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The deal comes after two and a half years of negotiations between Ken Youdale, the father of a thalidomide victim, and beverage giant Diageo which took over Distillers, the distributor of thalidomide in the 1960s.


Australia’s thalidomide victims received what was then a full and final payment in 1974 for their deformities caused by the sedative drug taken by their mothers during pregnancy.

But Sydney-based Mr Youdale, spurred on by a deal Diageo did with UK thalidomiders, put together a compelling case for the 45 Australasians.

Mr Youdale, 86, whose daughter Nicole was a “thalidomider”, met each of the victims and presented Diageo with an audited plan which included the amount of money it cost three victims to live for a year.

“It showed every penny they spent in 2008-09, and if they had carers then they were attributable costs as well,” Mr Youdale told AAP.

“These people virtually had nothing left from the money they were granted in 1974.”

He was given the power of attorney to represent them in negotiations with Diageo with the legal work done pro bono by Slater and Gordon.

The annual payment will be distributed according to the levels of disability of each thalidomider.

Mr Youdale said Diageo was “surprised” when he first knocked on their door in 2008 but when they saw his presentation and his power of attorney they knew he was serious.

He praised the company for its generosity in striking a deal which could cost it more than $60 million.

“They knew they were talking with one person who could be negotiated with, and that set the stage for what happened,” he said.

“Diageo has been compassionate and very understanding, and incredibly generous.

“The 1974 payments were full and final settlements and this is, therefore, ex-gratia payments which they didn’t need to make at all.

“We don’t know how long the deal will last but it should run for at least 21 or more years.”

Brett Nielsen, the Thalidomide Australia president, praised Mr Youdale for his efforts, saying that at the age of 86 no one had any right to expect him to put in the time, dedication and personal commitment to the task.

“Ken and his wife Janet lost their own daughter Nicole to the effects of thalidomide in 2003, and I know she would be as proud of him today as we are,” Mr Nielsen said.