Mike O’Brien

What was the accusation?

In 1961, the European manufactured drug thalidomide (prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s for morning sickness and insomnia) was removed from circulation after children of mothers who took the drug were born with severe physical deformities, discovered to be linked to the drug itself. In January 2010, nearly 50 years later, British health minister Mike O’Brien delivered a formal apology before Parliament (and on behalf of the British government) for the “injury and suffering endured by all those affected.” The apology came shortly after O’Brien’s December 2009 announcement of a substantial compensation package (£20 million) to be administered via the Thalidomide Trust for survivors.  

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Corrective Action



“Let me make the following statement on behalf of the government. I know many thalidomiders have waited a long time for this. It is agreed with the National Advisory Council of the Thalidomide Trust. The government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961. We acknowledge both the physical hardship and the emotional difficulties that have faced both the children affected and their families as a result of this drug and the challenges that many continue to endure, often on a daily basis. In the light of what happened, a complete review of the machinery for marketing, testing, and regulating drugs was initiated, including the enactment of the Medicines Act of 1968, which introduced further testing for medicines prior to licensing to ensure that they meet acceptable standards of safety and efficacy.”


Bloxham, A. (2010, January 14). Thalidomide apology made official. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/6988179/Thalidomide-apology-made-official.html

Boseley, S. (2010, January 14). 50 years on, an apology to thalidomide scandal survivors. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/jan/14/thalidomide-apology-government

50 years on, a formal apology over Thalidomide. (2010, January 14). Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/50-years-on-a-formal-apology-over-thalidomide-1868029.html

Triggle, N. (2010, January 10). Apology to thalidomide survivors. BBC News. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8458855.stm