Phoenix woman says drug manufacturer's apology is 50 years overdue

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by Carina Sonn

azfamily.com

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 7:51 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 5 at 8:00 AM

GERMANY -- A drug maker responsible for birth defects in thousands of babies has apologized - 50 years after its mistake.

Thalidomide was supposed to help pregnant women with morning sickness. Instead the drug, sold overseas in the '60s, caused serious side effects -- babies born without arms or legs.

Sherri Chessen, who was on a popular Phoenix TV show called "Romper Room,"' became the central figure in the infamous fight.

Chessen took 36 pills that her husband had bought while on a trip in London. When she was refused an abortion in Arizona, she went to Sweden to have it performed.

A mother of four at the time, Chessen was fired from her job and even received death threats.

Last week German drug-maker Grünenthal apologized, saying in part "... We wish that the Thalidomide tragedy had never happened .... We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us."

Chessen and many others -- especially parents who decided to continue with their pregnancies after learning of the consequences -- say the apology isn't enough.

"When I first saw it I thought, 'Great they're finally acknowledging their roll in it,' but on closer reading they didn't," said Chessen who now lives in California.

What would bring true closure is a thank-you note directly from the company, "...for speaking out against this drug, because I was the baby that fell in the well," says Chessen who says she took the heat after news of her abortion became public.

Thalidomide is still sold today for leprosy and bone marrow cancer.

While Chessen says she has not received any money from the drug maker, some of the victims have.

After the controversy, Chessen went on to have two more kids.

She now writes children's books about bullying, sexual abuse, even gun safety.

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