DAUGHTERS AT RISK: A Personal DES History by Stephen & Lawrence S. Charfoos Fenichell


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One of two new books on the dangers of artificial hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES)--and very much the lesser of the two. This is the legal story of one of the first DES cases to go to trial, as told by the plaintiff's lawyer and a journalist covering the case; and it conveys neither the victim's feelings nor the drama of the experience. Anne Needham was 20 when operations for the rare vaginal cancer now appearing in DES daughters left her unable to bear children, partially incontinent, and emotionally in turmoil. Six years later an Illinois court awarded her $80,000 in damages--a decision that was reversed on appeal and remanded for trial; and there the story ends. The authors competently recount the development of DES in England; its popularization by the Smiths of Harvard as a drug to ward off miscarriage; how the first cases of vaginal cancer were connected to DES; and the role of the F.D.A. But the particulars of Anne Needham's personal ordeal and of the trial are vague and incomplete. (A typical medical description: ""they did some staining, which was incredibly painful."") At the trial, the importance of the legal maneuvering (or, why the defending drug company was at such pains to establish just when Anne Needham connected her ailment to DES) is never quite established--what with all the unrelated detail on the litigants' dress and other trivia. For a systematic, helpful presentation of all there is to know, see Cynthia Orenberg's DES (below).

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday