I read an obituary the other day which gave me information that I had no idea about before. It was of Dr Frances Kelsey who was just a month into her job at the Food and Drug Administration when she was asked to sign off on a drug providing morning sickness relief. This was thalidomide. She felt there wasn't enough information about it and blocked its sale in America, despite pressure from the company. The newspaper report, from the Los Angelos Times, said she was 101 when she died just a day after being awarded the Order of Canada for outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. I wonder why they waited so long to award this.
She started her career after university at the new pharmacology department at the University of Chicago, and wondered if her name helped her get the job which she was offered by mail. The greeting was to Dear Mr Oldham. Perhaps the people of the USA were saved from thalidomide by the decision of her parents not to call her a name like Margaret or Ethel. There were others in the department concerned but she was the one who had the chief objections and was not persuaded by Richardson-Merrell Drug company's assurances. They compalined to her superiors about her but she didn't budge - and then came the news of the deformities.
I had no idea till now that thalidomide was never prescribed in America. Her husband of 17 years died in 1960 the same year she was taking this stance. The article said she worked for the FDA until retiring in 2005, aged 90! She was also credited with the tightening of the rules for the approval of drugs.
But there must be a lot of people in the USA and Canada who are able-bodied, but might not have been without an equally determined woman.