in legal battle over infant drug trial
was used as a guinea pig in child vaccine scandal'
Irish Independent, Friday August 20 2010
WOMAN subjected to a controversial vaccine trial as a baby without her
mother's consent broke her silence last night to reveal her traumatic
decades-long fight for justice.
Steed (50) was effectively used as a guinea pig during the 'four-in-one'
vaccine trials carried out on her between December 1960 and October 1961
when she was between nine and 18 months old.
was given up for adoption to a couple in the US shortly afterwards and
is now preparing a class action in the US courts against the
multinational drugs giant responsible for the medical tests, an Irish
Independent investigation reveals.
Steed and three others who were also subjected to the trials are looking
to separately sue the Catholic religious order that they claim
facilitated the experiments in the early 1960s.
was administered the vaccine on at least four occasions at the Sacred
Heart Convent, Bessborough, in Cork, also known as the Bessborough
Mother and Baby Home.
Steed became aware she had been subjected to the vaccine trials after
she retrieved her medical documents while trying to track down her
mother, Josephine, in the late 1990s.
who is now in a nursing home in the UK, last night said the tests were
carried out on her baby daughter without her consent or knowledge of her
didn't ask me for my permission to give her that shot," she said.
Steed, who now lives in Philadelphia, and a number of other victims in
the US are taking the landmark case because repeated attempts to seek
justice in this country have failed.
and the three others are planning to file a class action against the
GlaxoSmithKline drug company in the US courts. GlaxoSmithKline was
called 'The Wellcome Foundation' when the trials were conducted.
are also hoping to separately take a case against the Sacred Heart Order
-- either individually or as a group -- in the Irish courts.
have queried if the religious order received any financial payment in
return for the children being used in the trials. However, it has never
been established if any payment was received.
trials involved incredibly poor judgment on the part of all involved. We
were basically used as human guinea pigs," Ms Steed told the Irish
are at least four of us who are aware we were part of the trials, but
there are probably more out there who don't know what happened to
least 211 children were given the test vaccines during three separate
drug trials, says a report commissioned by then-Health Minister Brian
Cowen and drawn up by the Department of Health in 2000.
Steed was involved in the first trial, which took place between December
1960 and November 1961 on 58 children in five children's homes. These
included St Patrick's Mother and Baby Home, Dublin; the Bessborough
Mother and Baby home in Cork; and St Peter's Mother and Baby Home,
Castlepollard, Co Westmeath. Children from St Clare's Baby Home in
Stamullen, Co Meath, and the Good Shepherd Mother and Baby Home in
Dunboyne, Co Meath, also participated.
trial examined what would happen if four vaccines for diphtheria (a
life-threatening disorder caused by a highly contagious bacterial
infection), pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus and polio were combined
in one overall jab, known as the four-in-one shot.
the four-in-one jab never went into production after it failed to
improve the previous standard vaccine.
Steed's mother, Josephine, who was forced to give her daughter up for
adoption to a US couple just months after the trials took place,
insisted she never gave her consent for Mari to be used in the trial.
added: "What happened to mothers, like myself, and the babies at
that home was cruel. I am still angry and would like an apology for what
the report concluded that it had not been possible to find documentation
to confirm whether or not trials were licensed or received consent.
its publication, the report was referred to the investigation of the
Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, then known as the Laffoy
Commission. But court challenges from doctors involved in the trials
prompted Health Minister Mary Harney to shut down the module without
Steed and other victims called on Ms Harney to publicly apologise on
behalf of the State for what happened.
Ms Harney last night insisted there would be no further inquiries into
the allegations already made. The minister also declined to say if she
would apologise to the victims, or if the Government would provide
life-screening or counselling.
Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said Ms Steed and other victims
had been treated like "second-class" citizens.
spokesman for the Sacred Heart Order said they would not make any
comment until the case was taken. He said he was not aware of any other
live actions against the order and insisted the issue surrounding the
trials had been dealt with. A GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman also refused
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