In the early 1960s, Germany was gripped in a huge scandal. Thousands of German babies had been born with severe deformations linked to the mothers taking Thalidomide (brand name Contergan) during pregnancy. The German drug manufacturer, Grünenthal, had advertised Contergan as completely safe for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness.
It took the prosecution in Aachen almost six and half years to collect the material for the court proceedings that started in May 1968 in Alsdorf near Aachen. Nine leading Grünenthal employees were charged with involuntary manslaughter, physical injury resulting from negligence, malicious injury and offences against the Medical Law. Among the more prominent defendants were Thalidomide inventor Dr. Heinrich Mückter and Hermann Wirtz, the founder and leading manager of Grünenthal. Wirtz didn’t participate in the proceedings, due to illness.
“Hermann Wirtz, the head of the company, was actually removed from the trial on grounds of ill health, and he lived for another six years, so it can’t have been that serious, but it seems very strange that the chief accused, on some modest ill health grounds, should be stopped from having to answer these most serious charges.”
~ Martin Johnson, Thalidomide Researcher
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