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September 02, 2012

Phocomelia: In America, Flipper was just a TV Show

On Labor Day, let's talk about the other side of the coin: Capital, and it's problems with regulations and government.

The recent zeitgeist proclaims that what we really need to do is to get Government and Regulations out of the way of Capital, Job Creators, and Corporations so they can do Their Thing and make It Better.

If only we would let those Corporations do what they know best, unfettered by bureaucrats and restrictions. We wouldn't have an energy crisis, we wouldn't have an economic crisis, hell we might have even cured cancer by now - can't prove it, but it might be very likely. Just saying.

What happens when we let Corporations do what they know best without any checks and balances? Do we have any historical evidence? What does the record show?

In Europe in the late 1950 and early 1960's, children were born with phocomelia, meaning seal limbs, which describes an extremely rare condition in which human babies are born with limbs that look like flippers.

Over 10,000 European children were born with significant deformities because their mothers were given a new drug, thalidomide, to treat their morning sickness during pregnancy. This week, 50 years later, the Corporation that developed and sold Thalidomide said something they forgot to say back in the day: "We're sorry".

The United States didn't see the Thalidomide birth-defects crisis. A junior government employee, Frances Oldham Kelsey, resisted significant pressure from manufacturer Richardson Merrell to approve the drug specifically for pregnant women. Kelsey was concerned about the drug crossing the placental barrier and insisted on further study prior to approval. Her concern was borne out when Europe started experiencing an inordinate number of birth defects.

The Corporation wanted to sell a drug that gave babies flippers for limbs.
Regulation meant there were checks and balances.
A Government Employee said No, and many thousands were saved.

In Europe, "flipper" is what a thalidomide baby had for arms and legs.
In America, "Flipper" was an innocuous television show - thanks to FDA and F.O. Kelsey.

Damn regulators and government employees.


Don Brown said...

Bravo! Well done.

Don Brown

Anonymous said...


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