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“Mercy-Killing” Thalidomide Trial Creates Sensation in Belgium

Nov. 5, 1962 - In Liège, Belgium today, the mother and grandmother of a deformed thalidomide baby wept in court as they gave evidence of the baby’s death. Television and movie cameras, allowed in court for the first time in Belgium’s history, recorded the opening of the nation’s biggest “mercy-killing” trial. Mrs. Suzanne Coipel-Vendeputte (far right), 25, is accused of murdering her 7-day-old girl, Corinne, after a family council decided the baby’s fate. The mother, who reportedly turned away in horror when she first saw the armless child, told the court: “I thought of all possible solutions after I had been shown the baby but could find nothing else to do. What I did was the only possible solution. I felt the child could not be happy as it was.” Her husband, Jean (second from right), her sister Monique (second from left), 26, her mother (third from left), and the family doctor, Jacques Casters (far left), are all charged with aiding and abetting the crime. It was Dr. Casters who had prescribed the sleep-inducing drug thalidomide for Mrs. Coipel-Vandeputte. Thalidomide taken by pregnant women has been blamed for the birth of thousands of deformed babies. The grandmother is charged with having got in touch with Dr. Casters to obtain a means of killing Corinne. The doctor is charged with providing the drug that killed the baby. The husband and sister are charged with condoning the killing of the child.


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