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Silent Shock: The Men Behind the Thalidomide Scandal and an Australian Family's Long Road to Justice

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'The baby started to come out. Head first, everything OK. But then I saw that there were no arms. And then no legs. The little girl had only a torso and a head.' IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. IN 2012, after almost fifty years of struggle and 'The baby started to come out. Head first, everything OK. But then I saw that there were no arms. And then no legs. The little girl had only a torso and a head.' IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. IN 2012, after almost fifty years of struggle and poverty, Lyn won a multi-million-dollar settlement from the drug's distributor, Distillers. It was the first compensation she ever received. In Silent Shock, Michael Magazanik tells Lyn Rowe's story - and lifts the lid on how the thalidomide tragedy was allowed to happen. He shows how the guilty did their best to get away with it. He explodes the myth that the whole scandal was just a tragic accident, unavoidable within the safety standards of the time. And he exposes the disgraceful cover-up at the heart of Distillers' Australian thalidomide operation Silent Shock is an epic account of corporate wrongdoing against a backdrop of heroic personal struggle and sacrifice. It is crucial, compelling reading.


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'The baby started to come out. Head first, everything OK. But then I saw that there were no arms. And then no legs. The little girl had only a torso and a head.' IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. IN 2012, after almost fifty years of struggle and 'The baby started to come out. Head first, everything OK. But then I saw that there were no arms. And then no legs. The little girl had only a torso and a head.' IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. IN 2012, after almost fifty years of struggle and poverty, Lyn won a multi-million-dollar settlement from the drug's distributor, Distillers. It was the first compensation she ever received. In Silent Shock, Michael Magazanik tells Lyn Rowe's story - and lifts the lid on how the thalidomide tragedy was allowed to happen. He shows how the guilty did their best to get away with it. He explodes the myth that the whole scandal was just a tragic accident, unavoidable within the safety standards of the time. And he exposes the disgraceful cover-up at the heart of Distillers' Australian thalidomide operation Silent Shock is an epic account of corporate wrongdoing against a backdrop of heroic personal struggle and sacrifice. It is crucial, compelling reading.

30 review for Silent Shock: The Men Behind the Thalidomide Scandal and an Australian Family's Long Road to Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    “In August 2012 Grunenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock…expressed sincere regret at the harm caused by thalidomide, and apologised for the company’s fifty-year silence. ‘We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us’” Silent Shock is the first book by Australian journalist and lawyer, Michael Magazanik. As part of the legal team for thalidomider, Lyn Rowe’s action against parent drug manufacturer Grunenthal, and Australian distributor, Distil “In August 2012 Grunenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock…expressed sincere regret at the harm caused by thalidomide, and apologised for the company’s fifty-year silence. ‘We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us’” Silent Shock is the first book by Australian journalist and lawyer, Michael Magazanik. As part of the legal team for thalidomider, Lyn Rowe’s action against parent drug manufacturer Grunenthal, and Australian distributor, Distillers, Michael Magazanik had access to a staggering amount of information about the whole thalidomide scandal. In this book, he tells several stories concurrently: the development and marketing of the drug by the German manufacturer; the marketing and distribution by licensees in other countries, in particular, the United Kingdom, USA and Australia; just how Lyn Rowe became a thalidomider (a story common to many of the victims); and the work and time involved in Lyn’s legal action for compensation. Many potential readers will think they know the story of the thalidomide scandal: this book will have a few surprises for them, as Magazanik exposes myths and concealments on a grand scale; those who have a vaguer knowledge of events will appreciate Magazanik’s thorough account of the circumstances that led to the unnecessary maiming and death of so many. And may find themselves gasping at the lies, the cover-ups and denials revealed. Many will find it hard to resist quoting facts and whole passages to those around them, or to remark on the breath-taking arrogance, the incredible greed, the lack of ethics and total amorality of those involved in the poor testing and reckless marketing of this supposedly innocuous drug. The (mostly unsung) heroes of the whole awful saga are many: the families and carers of thalidomiders, the whistleblowers, a certain American bureaucrat, legal teams working for thalidomiders, journalists and, of course, the thalidomiders themselves who showed great courage just getting on with their lives, not to mention persisting with legal challenges against great odds. The stringent safeguards by which researchers and marketers are now bound is something for which the world can be grateful to them. That in the present day there are still thalidomiders born in some countries will stun those who think this an issue of the past. Magazanik provides a great deal of information, but his experience as a journalist is apparent as he presents it all in easily digestible form. He includes a comprehensive index and a handy chronology of events. While the lack of justice and compensation for thalidomiders is disappointing, and the refusal of Grunenthal to accept responsibility or pay compensation, infuriating, Magazanik ends his account on a positive note, with a quote from Wendy Rowe: “It was the drug that damaged Lyn, pure and simple. But once it happened, it was up to us to turn it into a positive or a negative. Lyn has shown us all what grace and courage and determination are and we’re better people for it. She changed our direction in life. You’d never wish what happened to Lyn on anyone. But there was no changing it. We had to dig down and find the good in it”. This book has been accurately described as a compelling read. Highly recommended!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    The thalidomide scandal has been a terrible and drawn out episode of injustice, but this book is a fitting tribute to the Rowe family and all those who stuck to their cause and came out on top of the pharmaceutical company that should have known better. Here's Magazanik talking on that journey: https://soundcloud.com/abc-gold-coast... The thalidomide scandal has been a terrible and drawn out episode of injustice, but this book is a fitting tribute to the Rowe family and all those who stuck to their cause and came out on top of the pharmaceutical company that should have known better. Here's Magazanik talking on that journey: https://soundcloud.com/abc-gold-coast...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    Shortly after this book was published, I heard the author Michael Magazanik interviewed on the radio. I was so enthralled that I pulled over, googled the nearest bookstore and grabbed a copy right there. This is a wonderful and devastating book. It was infuriating and depressing, but gorily interesting also. I'm a lawyer by trade and was initially drawn to the book for its recounting of the legal battles that Thalidomide victims have been through. But it's definitely not a book about the legal p Shortly after this book was published, I heard the author Michael Magazanik interviewed on the radio. I was so enthralled that I pulled over, googled the nearest bookstore and grabbed a copy right there. This is a wonderful and devastating book. It was infuriating and depressing, but gorily interesting also. I'm a lawyer by trade and was initially drawn to the book for its recounting of the legal battles that Thalidomide victims have been through. But it's definitely not a book about the legal process, it's far more than that. The coverups and flat out lies, both by individuals and corporations across a number of continents, are terrifying. You couldn't make this shit up. It reads almost like a thriller in parts; like a news article in others. It's an easy and engaging read, and one I'd recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Caryn

    AMAZING book. Captivated my interest immediately, well written with the legal research that had taken place interwoven with stories of the people who were central to the Thalidomide scandal. Fascinating insight into just how irresponsible Grünenthal had been with relation to their management of this drug. Such an insight into the structural problems inherent in this company. The family that the lawsuit centred around in this book were so inspiring with their absolute resilience in the face of su AMAZING book. Captivated my interest immediately, well written with the legal research that had taken place interwoven with stories of the people who were central to the Thalidomide scandal. Fascinating insight into just how irresponsible Grünenthal had been with relation to their management of this drug. Such an insight into the structural problems inherent in this company. The family that the lawsuit centred around in this book were so inspiring with their absolute resilience in the face of such significant challenges.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Philip Hunt

    Some time in the early 1980s I read "Suffer the Children", the Sunday Times book about the thalidomide tragedy. I considered it the last word on the matter. It never occurred to me that this was just a prequel to a story of injustice, pain and accidental heroism that would still be playing out in 2012 and beyond. Now we have Michael Magazanik's wonderful account of justice delayed, but, for some at least, finally delivered. Magazanik skilfully weaves the personal stories of thalidomide victims an Some time in the early 1980s I read "Suffer the Children", the Sunday Times book about the thalidomide tragedy. I considered it the last word on the matter. It never occurred to me that this was just a prequel to a story of injustice, pain and accidental heroism that would still be playing out in 2012 and beyond. Now we have Michael Magazanik's wonderful account of justice delayed, but, for some at least, finally delivered. Magazanik skilfully weaves the personal stories of thalidomide victims and their carers with the forensic work of an army of lawyers that include himself. The story moves along with this dynamic of heart and head. Frankly it is really well told, easy to read, hard to put down. The victims now are well into their 50s and their carers are either 75+ or long gone. Most, perhaps all, had resigned themselves to never seeing adequate support, let alone compensation. This is a fine story about the best aspects of our judicial system and how it can work in the interests of justice for the unfairly afflicted.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Brilliant. A truly shocking story. Shocking. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in real life fate of the human race. It will rock your world and your belief in mankind if you have any. Michael Magazanik is a true investigative journalist and he has done a magnificent job of gathering long hidden secret information and dragging it into the light of day. It’s one of the best books I have ever read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    amee

    Thought provoking This book was a great read, so informative and thought provoking. I was disturbed and utterly disgusted at the callousness of the pharmaceutical companies. I had heard of thalidomide but knew very little of the actual details, this book was very educational for me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    A journey worth knowing about. Some people are just so good, and families so loving.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helene

    “In August 2012 Grunenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock…expressed sincere regret at the harm caused by thalidomide, and apologised for the company’s fifty-year silence. ‘We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us’” While the lack of justice and compensation for thalidomiders is disappointing, and the refusal of Grunenthal to accept responsibility or pay compensation, infuriating, Magazanik ends his account on a positive note, with a quote “In August 2012 Grunenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock…expressed sincere regret at the harm caused by thalidomide, and apologised for the company’s fifty-year silence. ‘We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us’” While the lack of justice and compensation for thalidomiders is disappointing, and the refusal of Grunenthal to accept responsibility or pay compensation, infuriating, Magazanik ends his account on a positive note, with a quote from Wendy Rowe: “It was the drug that damaged Lyn, pure and simple. But once it happened, it was up to us to turn it into a positive or a negative. Lyn has shown us all what grace and courage and determination are and we’re better people for it. She changed our direction in life. You’d never wish what happened to Lyn on anyone. But there was no changing it. We had to dig down and find the good in it”. This book has been accurately described as a compelling read. Highly recommended!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Very interesting and despite the dense subject matter, it is not a difficult read. Very well written.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Natoli

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joan Foley

  14. 5 out of 5

    Antonio To

  15. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

  17. 5 out of 5

    Celeste Chua

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna Parsons

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cyclist

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janine Prentice

  23. 5 out of 5

    Edd

  24. 4 out of 5

    Helen Hillman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carly Biddolph

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cara Chapman

  28. 5 out of 5

    mimi chi

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shennae

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fiona Lester

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