Karl's fight for justice

A man born with missing fingers and toes has been left in legal limbo because of a dispute over possible links between his birth defects and an old-fashioned hormone pregnancy test.

Karl Murphy, 36, says he has hit a brick wall in his battle for compensation because no firm scientific connection has been established between the drug Primodos and congenital abnormalities.

This is despite widespread fears over the dosage of Norethisterone used in Primodos, a chemical now used in small doses in the contraceptive pill.

The Government issued an official warning about the drug in 1975 over fears it could cause birth defects. Shortly after, the drug was withdrawn from the UK market.

Medical notes show that Karl's mum, Pamela, was given two tablets of Primodos by her GP in the early 1970s. On the second occasion, Karl was born.

Karl said: "The amount of Norethisterone used in Primodos was the equivalent of one to three packets of contraceptive pills.

"Nowadays, all tablets that contain it warn people not to take it if they are pregnant.

"I'm convinced this is linked to why I was born with no toes on my left foot, one toe missing on my right foot, several missing fingers and part of my lip missing.

"When I was growing up other kids used to target me and even now I have to prove myself more than everyone else."

A lengthy legal battle between claimants and the Schering drug firm was eventually discontinued in 1982 and scientists maintain there is no proof that Primodos damaged unborn babies.

But, supported by his wife, Claire, Karl remains undeterred and has set up a campaign on behalf of the estimated 700 UK residents who have a similar condition.

He has even held several meetings with the MP for St Helens South, Shaun Woodward, in a bid to step up his battle for compensation.

Karl, of Longton Lane, Rainhill, who works as a traffic officer for the Highways Agency, added: "I've had to struggle my whole life and it's affected my whole family. I still find it difficult to fasten buttons on my shirts and turn taps on – just normal everyday things."

A spokesman for Bayer PLC, which took over the Schering drug firm which produced Primodos, said: "We sympathise with Mr Murphy, both in relation to his abnormalities and the related difficulties that he continues to face.

"However, based on facts and on the law, we do not accept that Bayer has any case to answer in relation to the marketing of Primodos by Schering and Bayer maintains that Primodos was not responsible for the congenital abnormalities with which Mr Murphy was born."