Silent Shock exposes the devastating truth about the prescription of Thalidomide in Australia, but at its core is the story of a deeply loving family and the sacrifices they have made to care for each other.
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.
Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne in 1962, seven months after her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called Thalidomide. Wendy and Ian Rowe already had two healthy daughters and were unsuspecting of the shock that lay ahead.
‘Dr Dickinson told me my baby did not have arms or legs. What do you think about at a moment like that? I just remember thinking, we’re going to look after this little girl.’
Despite being advised to turn their backs and hand her over to professional care, the Rowe family looked after Lyn. Decades of exhausting, round-the-clock work. ‘Most babies learn how to walk and to feed themselves, and dress and go to the toilet, and wash themselves. Fifty years later, I still do all of that for her.’
But then in 2011 Lyn Rowe launched a legal claim against the Thalidomide companies. After years of hardship and poverty, and against incredible odds, she won a multi-million-dollar settlement.
Former journalist Michael Magazanik is one of the lawyers who ran Lyn’s case. In Silent Shock he exposes a fifty-year cover up concerning history’s most notorious drug, and details the damning case against manufacturers Grünenthal—whose enthusiastic promotion of their lucrative drug in the face of mounting evidence beggars belief.
Spanning Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Sweden and, of course, Germany, Silent Shock is an epic account of corporate wrongdoing against a backdrop of heroic personal struggle and sacrifice. It is crucial, compelling reading.
The Sydney Morning Herald describes it as ‘an extraordinary story with villains and brave heroes...Magazanik has moulded [the Rowes’] story into a modern Australian myth, the battlers who took on the pharmaceuticals and won.’
Michael Magazanik will be in converation with Jill Singer at the Wheeler Centre on 30 June to discuss his book.