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Louise Medus Mansell, Thalidomide Campaigner, Dies At 56

November 16, 2018

Tributes have been paid to the Thalidomide campaigner Louise Medus-Mansell, who has died at the age of 56.

Louise Medus-Mansell was born without arms and legs after her mother was prescribed the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy.

In the 1960s, her father fought a high-profile campaign for compensation and she became the face of the campaign.

Her family said she died in her sleep on 7 November following complications after a transplant operation.

In a statement, they said Mrs Medus-Mansell, who leaves behind two children, will be “greatly missed”.

“Throughout her life she inspired many, through disability rights campaigning and her work with the young group The Woodcraft Folk,” they added.

“She was well known in her hometown for her positivity, enthusiasm for life and many locals will remember her for whizzing round town in her chair, with children and dogs in tow.”

Originally marketed as a sedative, Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s as a cure for morning sickness.

By 1961 it was clear that it was causing serious birth defects and by later that year it was withdrawn in the UK.

Mrs Medus-Mansell, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was one of the last babies born with the effects of the drug in 1962.

Ruth Blue, from the Thalidomide Society where Mrs Medus-Mansell was a chair and trustee, said she was “always an enthusiastic and vibrant personality” despite her “many health issues”.

“Louise once described herself to me as using her wheelchair as a battering ram, which I think really sums her up,” she said.

“When she was on a mission, nothing would stop her.

“She will be sorely missed by her family, her many friends in the thalidomide community and all those who had the chance to work with her over the years.”

In an interview with BBC Radio Gloucestershire in 2009, Mrs Medus-Mansell said a “single tablet” had stopped her arms and legs from growing but it was “no good crying over spilt milk”.

“We were told when we were born we would die at one week, one month and then that we’d be dead by teenagers and now most of us are in our late 40s,” she said.

“The majority of my life, I just get up and get on with it. There’s always somebody worse off than myself.”

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