Author Topic: Mothers given dangerous drug: inquiry  (Read 44 times)

Pip

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Mothers given dangerous drug: inquiry
« on: November 13, 2019, 07:25:03 PM »
https://www.smh.com.au/national/mothers-given-dangerous-drug-inquiry-20110928-1kww3.html

Mothers given dangerous drug: inquiry
September 28, 2011 — 3.33pm

Some mothers whose newborn babies were taken away under past forced adoption practices unknowingly were given a drug, now linked to cancer, that suppressed breast milk, a Senate inquiry has been told.  Between the 1950s and 1970s, about 150,000 Australian unwed mothers had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies.  A Senate committee is investigating the Commonwealth's involvement.  The committee on Wednesday heard some women were given a synthetic estrogen drug called diethylstilbestrol to suppress lactation.  The drug can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, and the risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer in daughters exposed to the drug in the womb, according to information from the Cancer Council.  Janet Tough has told the committee how she had been unknowingly given the drug.  ''I had been given something to dry up my breast milk, this drug was diethylstilbestrol,'' she wrote in a submission to the inquiry.  ''I was informed of this by a sister when I asked why my breasts were unnaturally hard and sore.'' 

Ms Tough said she began wailing when she realised she would not be able to feed her baby.  ''I asked to see him and was told he was being given away for adoption and I could not see him,'' she said.  ''For three days I asked continually for my baby, and began to cry, beg, and eventually scream when I was denied him.''

Hospital staff told her she would be disciplined for disturbing other patients.  Another young mother, Linda Graham-Tetley, also was given the drug against her will and not told of any health risks.  ''I was not asked permission for this drug to be administered to me,'' she wrote in her submission.  ''Someone had decided to dry up my milk, pre-empting a decision to adopt and not to breastfeed but it certainly wasn't me.''

Health department official Alan Singh told the inquiry the widespread use of the drug ceased in the 1970s.  "The National Health and Medical Research Council had not funded any specific research into the long term health effects of DES as a lactation suppressant," he said.

Mr Singh said he was unsure whether the council had been asked to investigate the issue but would take the question on notice.  Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert noted the inquiry previously had heard evidence some mothers had been given large amounts of the drug.  Mr Singh said he was unaware of any other departmental research of the drug's health risk on mothers.  DES Action NSW, in its submission, said the drug was first approved for use in drying up breast milk in 1941. Despite it being withdrawn in 1978 there were reports of its use in maternity units and hospitals in the 1980s.  There was anecdotal evidence that young mothers were given three times the recommended dose.