Thalidomide victims running out of patience despite Ottawa’s promises

Thalidomide victims running out of patience despite Ottawa’s promises
Thalidomide victims running out of patience despite Ottawa’s promises

OTTAWA | The Trudeau government continues to make thalidomide victims languish, eager to know if they will finally be able to obtain valuable financial assistance that would give them a little dignity, despite promises to do better and faster.

• Read also: Born five weeks too late for Ottawa

Prisoner of a deformed body since her birth, Jeanne d’Arc Otis provided in July 2023 all the papers necessary for Ottawa to process her file.

Nine months later, she is still waiting for a committee of experts to look into her case.

“I’m starting to tell myself that they are trying by all means to forget me,” complains the 65-year-old woman.

Worse, when Health Canada experts lay their eyes on his case, they will take six to eight months before rendering their verdict.

However, in the fall of 2022, after a series of reports from Newspaperthe federal Minister of Health at the time, Jean-Yves Duclos, had promised to lecture his officials whom he considered too slow to react.

“The message is very clear: it must be done better and it must be done more quickly,” he declared following the publication in our pages of testimonies from citizens mistreated by the Canadian Support Program for Survivors of thalidomide (PCSST).

However, even today, several applicants like Jeanne d’Arc Otis feel abandoned by Epiq Canada, a class action service hired by Ottawa to administer the program.

Obstacle course

At the turn of the 1960s, Canada found itself caught in a global pharmaceutical scandal when it authorized the prescription of thalidomide, a sedative of German origin which calms the nausea of ​​pregnant women.

We quickly see devastating effects on babies who are born with significant malformations.

For decades, Canada refused to compensate victims for the tragedy they experienced.

Joan of Arc Otis never received a penny in federal compensation, despite her numerous malformations.

Aware that her life expectancy is probably reduced because of all her ailments, the Beauport resident would like to take advantage of the coming years to treat herself to some little treats.

Having access to the compensation program “would allow her to regain a certain dignity, a certain taste for life,” she whispers in an interview.

This is also the case of another victim, Richard Nantais, also stuck at the final stage of the study of his case which must eventually be evaluated by a committee made up of five experts.

“It seems like they are doing everything they can to delay,” he laments. I have a report that says it’s 86% certain it’s thalidomide. It’s completely crazy.”

Courtesy photo


Health Canada admits that there may be “delays” in processing requests due to the “complexity of the disease,” according to a spokesperson, Anne Génier.

More applicants are also going to the final stage of the expert committee, since the Federal Court invalidated, in 2022, the use of a simple algorithm to sort applicants, without even a human being seek medical advice.

“This change has significantly increased the number of applications awaiting evaluation at” the final stage, explains Health Canada.

However, Ottawa did not see fit to hire or increase its resources in order to unblock the bottleneck.

“The number of experts and specialists in the field of thalidomide embryopathy is very limited, both in Canada and around the world,” says Genius.

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