‘I regret adopting my daughter I feel like I’m babysitting a stranger’s kid’
A mum has sparked outrage after admitting she regrets adopting her daughter as she has never loved her as much as her biological children and still sees her as ‘someone else’s child’
By Paige Freshwater Content Editor
13:38, 23 Jan 2024Updated15:05, 23 Jan 2024
A mum has caused a stir by confessing she regrets adopting her daughter, admitting she’s never loved her as much as her biological children. She shared her story on Reddit, explaining that after having her son through IVF, she chose to adopt for her second child. However, she confessed she’s never been able to bond with her adopted daughter and over time, even began to resent her. The woman wrote: “So years ago before the birth of my first son, I was told it would be hard for me and my husband to conceive. We went through IVF and eventually I gave birth to my son. A few years later we wanted another child but didn’t want to have to go through the time and expense we did the last time with our son. So we decided to adopt. We adopted this beautiful baby girl whose parents were too young to raise her themselves. I loved her so much and treated her no different but I’ve never had the feeling she’s my own. I often feel like I’m babysitting someone else’s child. I feel terrible but I can’t help it. I’ve tried forcing myself to feel it but I just don’t. She’s 15 now and I’ve never felt a connection with her.”
But four years ago, the woman discovered she’d fallen pregnant naturally – and was expecting another girl. This only strained her relationship with her adopted daughter further, as she started to feel more excluded from the family. “We were so surprised since it just happened naturally and we found out it was going to be a girl. During the pregnancy, my hormones were all over the place and I started hating my adopted daughter because I felt if I had just waited then I wouldn’t have to have had her. When my daughter was born everything just felt right. I felt a proper connection like with my son and I bonded straight away.”
In search of sympathy, she confessed: “I sound horrible but adopting her was a massive mistake. I wish I could go back in time. I love her to pieces but unfortunately not as much as my biological children. I hate myself for it since I promised her parents I’d love her no different and I feel like I’ve let everyone down.”
To this, one Reddit user replied: “Therapy for you. Under no circumstances tell your daughter that you don’t love her as much as your bio kids, though that’s something that’s not hard to miss. Reach out to her birth family, if they’re decent people and you haven’t maintained contact, and see if they’d be interested in spending more time with her. This girl deserves to be enthusiastically cared for and loved by the people in her life. What about your husband? Does he feel the same way?”
Another person commented: “Since you already had a biological child you shouldn’t have adopted. I have heard lots of adoptees say they have always felt like they were competing with the biological child of the adoptive parent. I will say at least you have the courage to be honest, which is rare among adoptive parents. Does the child have any interaction with her birth family? Perhaps if she had a good relationship she could go back to them.”
A third person chimed in: “I really hope your adoptive daughter doesn’t know how you feel. Have you looked into professional help for yourself to dissect what’s going on and why you haven’t allowed yourself to bond? There are so many techniques out there that could have been used to create that bond. I know because I used some of them when I struggled to bond with my adoptive daughter. They worked. I feel so upset on behalf of your 15-year-old. I hope she never finds out and that you’ve said this because you want things to change. You can work to repair and create that bond rather than dwelling on the past and your own anger and regret. I hope you haven’t damaged her through any perceptible emotional distance on your part. How dreadfully sad that you still feel you are babysitting someone else’s child after all these years. Please stop dwelling on what might have been and step up to being the best parent you can be to her by seeking help if need be.”
Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ who tried to buy twins from the US for £8,200 in cash-for-babies scandal wants to meet the girls one last time now they have grown up
Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ who tried to buy twins from the US for £8,200 in cash-for-babies scandal wants to meet the girls one last time now they have grown up
Judith and Alan Kilshaw adopted Kiara and Keyara Wecker from US mother
Tranda Wecker, then 28, had put the girls up for sale on the internet
Another couple, Richard and Vickie Allen, had already bought them for £4,000
By Harry Howard For Mailonline
Published: 11:21, 17 November 2022 | Updated: 13:36, 17 November 2022
A mother who was reviled as Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ after paying to adopt baby twins from the US said she wants to meet the girls one last time. Judith Kilshaw and her husband Alan sparked an international storm after it emerged they paid £8,200 in December 2000 to adopt babies Kiara and Keyara Wecker. The Kilshaws then flew to the US and brought the girls back to their home in Buckley, North Wales. The girls’ mother, Missouri hotel receptionist Tranda Wecker, then 28, had put them up for sale on the internet. The trouble and publicity began when it emerged that another couple, Richard and Vickie Allen, had already bought the babies for £4,000. The Allens, who had been caring for Kiara and Keyara for two months when they were taken to the UK, furiously insisted they had had been kidnapped. The FBI became involved, with the subsequent international legal battle ending with the children being raised by a third set of foster parents in Missouri. Now the story is being re-told in Amazon Prime documentary Three Mothers, two Babies and a Scandal, which launches on Friday. According to the Mirror, Ms Kilshaw, now 67, says in the programme that she would ‘like to meet’ the girls so she can ‘find peace’. It emerged in 2018 that the girls, then 18, had just started university and were both studying social sciences. Mrs Kilshaw left her husband in 2007 for a man 13 years her junior who she had met in a nightclub. Mr Kilshaw passed away aged 63 after suffering from lung disease. Mrs Kilshaw said in the Amazon documentary: ‘Every day I think about what might have happened, what life might be like now if the girls had stayed with us. It’s usually a nice outcome in my mind, but that’s all ifs and buts and maybes really, isn’t it? You’ve got to face reality. I’m glad they moved on, I’m glad they went to university, I’m glad they have a life that’s the best thing you can hope for. All I want now is to find peace, and that’s the thing I still haven’t managed to find. I would like to meet them, but together with the others. It would be a very interesting if everybody involved could come together, say our piece and make our peace.’
The Allens had bought Kiara and Keyara, then six months old, from an adoption agency named A Caring Heart after being among the first to see the internet advert. The girls’ mother had fallen pregnant as her second marriage was coming to an end and had decided to part with her unwanted children by selling them. The Kilshaws then offered twice as much as the Allens had paid, but did not know the girls had already been sold. The couple had spent £4,000 on unsuccessful IVF treatment and had looked into surrogacy before deciding to adopt abroad. With the Kilshaws offering a much better price, A Caring Heart’s boss, Tina Johnson, told the Allens that their mother wanted to say a final goodbye to them and they would be away for just a couple of days. Johnson then took the twins to a nearby hotel and passed them to the Kilshaws. When the Allens saw the British couple apparently leaving with the babies, a fight broke out. The Kilshaws, who went on to rename the twins Kimberly and Belinda, drove away with the babies and their birth mother, as the Allens gave chase in their car. The couple ended up driving 4,000 miles to Arkansas, where they could formally adopt them. During the drive, the Allens had called them and said: ‘We know where you are. We are going to find you.’
The Kilshaws ended up paying more money to Wecker, for her flight back to Missouri, as well as £1,400 to a lawyer to organise adoption papers. Eight days later the Kilshaws were back in the UK and were at first cared for at the couple’s farmhouse. But a protection order was served on the Kilshaws in January 2001 and the twins were taken into the care of Flintshire social services. Flintshire County Council later lodged an appeal to the Family Division of the High Court to make the twins wards of court. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair even weighed in as the scandal grew, calling the sale of the children over the internet ‘disgusting’. In April 2001, the Kilshaws lost their battle to keep the children after a judge ruled it would not be in the ‘welfare interests’ of the twins. In California, the Allens were forced to withdraw their custody claim after Mr Allen was arrested in the spring of 2001, when two babysitters, ages 13 and 14, said he had sexually molested them. The outcome of that case is unclear. Kiara and Keyara ended up being taken in by foster parents in Missouri. The case came after Mrs Kilshaw had offered her grown-up daughter £3,000 to act as a surrogate mother. Louisa Richardson, then 22, angrily rejected the offer. Mr and Mrs Kilshaw already had two young sons at the time but wanted a daughter. It was after that refusal that Mrs Kilshaw found the advert for the US twins. In their quest to keep the twins, the Kilshaws had even been on TV personality Oprah Winfrey’s US show, where they faced Mr and Mrs Allen. Mrs Kilshaw has since split from her second husband Stephen Sillett, whom she married when she was 53 and he was 40.
Apart from the first months of reunion Anthony was out in Canada for two years but we were able to keep up regular communication.
One of the ways was through adoption.com’s chat room and sometimes we would have long chats. Anthony didn’t have a very good sense of humour and didn’t seem to realize how incredibly funny he could be. Occasionally I teased Anthony that the midwife dropped him on his head when he was born and knocked his sense of humour out of him which he did see the funny side of.
Anthony wanted me to have another child as he wanted a sibling as his father rejected him so he couldn’t have a relationship with his half-brother. There was a slim chance that Rick and I could have a child together but it didn’t happen which Anthony had to learn to live with.
Around this time a lady who emailed me who sounded desperate about wanting to find her son who was adopted – he was 22 years old – and asked me for advice. I didn’t have a clue where she got my email address so assumed it was from one of the groups/forums I belonged to and was certain she was British as well. Had to be honest that I found Anthony by accident and through which website. Gave her some constructive advice about how to go about searching and who to approach for help on the matter. I hoped to get some feedback though.
Our eldest dog, Bouncer, wasn’t to goo and he collapsed once then his back legs went on him again while we were out. It was probably to do with his heart murmur but it was still upsetting to see it happen as he seemed so happy. We were thankful he had gone on this long really as we knew he had a heart murmur for the past 6 years.
It felt strange talking about Anthony with my cousin as I didn’t say much about him when sending letters to my parents who rarely mentioned him. Of course my mum was extremely annoyed about Anthony wanted me and my family in his life but the extent of this came out over the next year or so. My sister and I hadn’t had any contact for six years by this time and it would another five years and our mum dying before we did.
Rick had joined the site that Anthony had set up and he had included Rick’s family tree on the site, we were administrators of that side. When I thought about the early days it was difficult as Rick had his issues to deal with and Anthony had problems accepting him. Rick wasn’t his father who wouldn’t accept Anthony but it got easier.
Anthony and I started chatting on msn messenger as we had fallen out over the adoption papers a few weeks previously although we have been sending the occasional email. We could both be stubborn at the best of times but I was relieved we talking again. The fall out with Anthony at that time was due to Anthony wanting to ask questions about the adoption papers but as I had never seen them I couldn’t answer him. When I tried to talk to him about the papers he kicked off so I sent him an email stating why certain things had been crossed out and replaced with other words. I also let him know what was true and what wasn’t.
*This was a period when life was good with the occasional hiccup. I was getting used to the occasional bad times from my son and was just letting it go over my head. At times I would be bewildered why he would suddenly be angry. I also knew I wouldn’t get a reasonable response back if I asked as I was expected to be psychic and just know. Eventually I found out he had been as bad with my family although by 2006 I saw it as understandable with my mum as she had lied to him. Me knowing my parents could have been honest to both of us since late 2001 contributed to this. My dad was forgiven much quicker as he knew exactly what my mum was like so it was easier than dealing with her wrath.
At this time I couldn’t stop thinking about why I couldn’t remember signing the Consent to Relinquish form. A friend from an online group, Empty Arms, seemed to think we possibly signed the form at a magistrate’s home rather than at court but I was sure I hadn’t done either. If I did go to a magistrate’s home or court then I certainly had a big whole in my memory – it was almost scary.
*As it turned out I didn’t get the Consent to Relinquish form and eventually I just gave up. I kept trying periodically but was constantly given the run around so in the end I got tired and fed up of the stress it was causing.
I remember when I first received a copy of the adoption papers which I should have received when my son was adopted. On reading them it was no surprise to realize that I had a ‘hole’ in my memory I hadn’t given information on them. It was still a bit irritating to read half-truths and lies though, the only absolute truth was descriptions of myself and my ex. The only other bit of truth was about my mum being asthmatic and that she had been in contact with Rubella so I’m partially deaf and a hardly noticeable speech defect. The only thing that really disappointed me was that I thought there would be a copy of the consent to relinquish form and nobody told me that it wouldn’t be included even though I had mentioned not remembering signing the form so wanted to see a copy.
When I saw my counsellor, from After Adoption, for the last time which was the same day as I got the copy of the adoption paperwork I mentioned this. All she could do was mumble was something about the consent to relinquish form being at the court that dealt with the adoption. I left it that as she had never been very helpful about explaining my rights so just didn’t know what to say but it has been on my mind since then.
The subject was brought up in another online group I belonged to specifically for women who have had a child adopted but haven’t had any more children. Some of the others said they have copies of the consent form so it has got the rest of us thinking about this so we are going to try and get copies as well. Yesterday I emailed my contact at the Adoption Resource Centre thanking her again for being so helpful before over the other paperwork then went on to explain what I was after this time.
I hated this feeling of having holes in my memory from that time and I couldn’t ask my parents as it had never been open to debate to discuss Anthony’s adoption. The only person I discussed Anthony with was my dad, post reunion, and then it was stilted, he only mentioned Anthony when they had spoken to each other – I hated that so much. I got more support from my in-laws and they openly admitted they didn’t understand what I have been through. Rick’s eldest sister and brother in law were fine about meeting Anthony the last time we saw him and they often asked after him. One thing that cheered me up is that Rick had second thoughts about viewing the flat of the lady who wanted to do a mutual exchange with us. I wanted to get back down south but I didn’t really want to give up a house for a flat as we had dogs and it wouldn’t be fair on the cat even though she was a ‘house’ cat as she liked sunning herself outside.
Back in early 2005 Rick and I were talking about starting up an adoption support group for adopters, adoptees, formerly fostered adults and foster carers as well as natural mothers. We had been talking to someone who would become a friend but at the time he thought it a terrible idea. Unfortunately, like most people who don’t have have ad adoption connection, he believed that all adoptions are necessary, the natural mothers are terrible people and it’s always best for the babies. It caused a lot of stress for me as he didn’t know much about my adoption connection and it left me very upset.
We managed to get talking about the realities af babies being adopted and it’s not that uncommon for babies to be adopted unnecessarily. He realized then that he had been wrong to assume mothers were drug users/and or prostitutes as the history of forced adoption still isn’t all that well known. Back then I was finding the courage to be more vocal about the subject and knew I was rubbing some people up the wrong way (generally) but I wanted to get the truth out.
I found attitudes were, on the whole, positive towards me when friends found out about my son. Occasionally there were awkward moments which I learned to deal with even if it meant changing the subject. There were also the well intentioned comments about how ‘wonderful’ it was that we had reunited. I would take a deep breath, smile and just nod my head. At times I wanted to scream at them that no it wasn’t wonderful and my son should never have been adopted. People meant well and I knew that I had two choices; either watch what I said or be honest. With time I learnt to say it how it was in a calm way.
I first started a journal back in September 2004 and several weeks after finding my son. I had stated posting on an adoption forums and someone suggested doing so as a way to help myself cope. Up until I found my son I had been silent, not even talking to my husband about him. It had been a family member who had told my husband about my son about six months after we had married.
My adoption journey had started back in 1981 when my son was born on the 3rd August. I had split from his father soon after I fell pregnant and didn’t tell him when I found out. It was wrong not to. I was angry and didn’t want him to have anything to do with my baby nor did I think he would believe that the baby was his. However I wanted to raise my son so kept quiet long enough not to be pressured into aborting by my parents.
When my parents found out they were so angry and decided my baby was to be adopted. My mother arranged everything despite me not agreeing to it and refusing to talk about it. The first time I saw a social worker from the adoption agency was after my son was born. I told her how I felt and she told me she would put a halt to the adoption. This didn’t happen and between her and my mother they constantly lied to me. I believed the lies, didn’t know my rights, didn’t see any paperwork and it is questionable I signed anything so I was a complete walkover.
I was expected to get on with my life, never talk about my son and to forget about him. I got on with my life, didn’t talk about my son but I never forgot about him. Subsequently I suffer with depression to the point of being suicidal at times and self harmed.
It was a shock when I found my son in 2004 days after his 23rd birthday on Genes Reunited. It turned out he had been searching for me for five years and had found my family quite quickly. They never told me nor did they ever tell him where I was. I was so angry at the time although I didn’t let him know that. It was a few weeks before I let my parents know I had found my son. Their excuse for not telling me about contact was that they didn’t know if my husband knew about him. All I could assume was either they were telling the truth or they did know what a family member had done. I didn’t want this to get the better of me so left it at that.
However with reunion my emotions exploded to the surface and I found it hard to cope. So when the suggestion of keeping a journal was given I jumped at it. I had been silent for 23 years and now it was my time to talk even if it was by the written word. I started a journal on the forums I belonged to at that time as I wanted to share my feelings.
Mother Denied Justice Campaigns to Transform the Family Courts
Victoria Hudson has been campaigning for several years to increase the protection of domestic abuse survivors and children who become entangled in the family court system. Tragically, Victoria and her daughter have themselves experienced untold suffering, trauma, and harm at the hands of the family courts.
Victoria, who campaigns under the banner #JusticeforFCchildren, worked alongside other campaigners to successfully lobby the Government to review unsafe contact orders and the removal of children by the family courts. A report, published by the Ministry of Justice in June 2020 laid bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, including harming children by placing them in danger by “enabling the continued control of children and adult victims of domestic abuse by alleged abusers, as well as the continued abuse of victims and children.”
Victoria is now passionately driven to bring about the radical changes necessary to protect domestic abuse survivors and their children from harmful and unjust state systems and structures, by making the family courts and their proceedings more transparent.
Like too many other women experiencing domestic violence and abuse, instead of protecting them, the state colluded with Victoria’s abuser in the most punishing way possible by severing mother and child. In September 2018, Victoria’s daughter (then aged 2) was physically and forcibly removed from her family home and placed under a Care Order with her ex-partner, who is not biologically related to her. Many other children in domestic abuse cases are severed from their mothers by adoption; the mother being blamed for the abuse rather than protected, and their right to family life permanently erased.
For Victoria and other mothers in her position, it is ironic that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, is conducting an inquiry into hundreds of forced adoptions that severed babies from unmarried mothers during the 1950s to 1970s, when mothers experiencing domestic abuse are currently facing similar infringements of human rights in the family courts.
Victoria is requesting the Ministry of Justice immediately review of her case in the family courts and is requesting the Joint Committee on Human Rights conduct an inquiry into whether family court decisions are breaching rights to family life.
 “Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases” (Ministry of Justice, June 2020)
If you want to support Victoria’s campaign, you can do three things:
First and foremost, email a letter to Lord David Wolfson MP, Minister for Family Courts to request that he instigates an immediate review of Victoria’s own case in the family courts. If successful, this will provide a test case for the campaign and lead to further reviews. Use this letter to draft your own. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also email a letter to Ms Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, requesting that alongside the current review into historic forced adoptions, she also orchestrates a review of family court decisions in relation to their impact upon the rights of children and birth mothers to family life. Use this letter to draft your own. Her email is email@example.com
Help Victoria to get more supporters and allies by following and sharing #JusticeforFCchildren on Twitter @Victoria_Hudson and Facebook facebook.com/getmhome
 “Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases” (Ministry of Justice, June 2020)
Recently I made a new friend connection on Facebook who is an adoptee and has written Your Secret My Story. I do want to get the book as from the little I know about it has helped me to talk a bit more to my sister.
Back in September we went down south to see family and give one of my sister’s granddaughters, our great niece, her birthday present. Before we came back my sister and I went through some crates that had come from our Dad’s home after he passed on. We came home with two crates of photographs and a few pieces of paperwork as my sister knows we are into family history/genealogy. Anything we didn’t want she said to chuck.
While we were going through the paperwork there were a couple of photographs of my son there so we talked about him. She feels bad because she feels she should love him as he is her nephew but doesn’t like him. I can understand where my sister is coming from as he can be very charming one minute then be angry when he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear. I told her not to feel bad about it as we had the same attitude and whilst I love him because he is my son and always will, I struggle to like him at times. We are so much alike with likes and dislike, even mannersisms, but adoption wrecked any chance of a happy reunion.
When we went back down south in November for my birthday the subject came up again. This time my sister mentioned that she and my parents refused to give my son any information as I was the one whom he needed to talk to. At the time when my son found my family I wasn’t talking to them due to an argument but two years of not talking to my parents I got back in touch with them. Instead of being honest with my son they continued to tell him they didn’t know where I was. My sister didn’t know where I was so she was honest. She told me that our parents told him the same and if they found out where I was they would let me know he wanted contact. I told my sister they never said a word to me so delayed contact for three years. It would have continued if I hadn’t found him.
I also told my sister of a conversation I had with our Mum over the phone back in 2006. She was visibly upset when I told her our Mum had said she couldn’t understand why my son wanted to know me as I was nothing to him and his only family was his adoptive one. My sister said it was cruel of our Mum to say that. I haven’t told her of the letter our Mum wrote to my son telling him to accept that I didn’t want to be found.
My sister needed to be told of both as she believed our parents would be honest with me about what actually happened. She has a better idea why I was so angry at that period in my life.
What did you give us? Fears over drug given to young Scots mothers forced into adoption
By Marion Scott
July 25, 2021, 2:05 pm
Unmarried mothers who were forced to give up their babies were given a controversial drug now linked to cancers and life-changing conditions passed on to future generations. A synthetic hormone, developed to mimic oestrogen, was given to young mothers to dry up their breast milk after their babies were taken for adoption, leaving them at increased risk of developing rare cancers of the reproductive system. Even now, few know the powerful drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES) has been linked to a number of breast and vaginal cancers. And it has been shown to cause gynaecological abnormalities and infertility in the children and grandchildren of women given the pills. A major US study found that the daughters of women who took the drug were 40 times more at risk of the rare vaginal cancer adenocarcinoma, eight times more likely to suffer neonatal death, and almost five times more likely to have a premature baby. The study also highlighted increased risks with early menopause, infertility and ectopic pregnancies. The sons of mothers who had taken the drug, which was marketed under the names Stilbestrol, Stilboestrol and Desplex, were also at increased risk of infertility and testicular cancer. The drug, often referred to as just DES, was widely used and marketed throughout the world for a variety of uses, including preventing miscarriage, until 1971 when a Boston scientist first confirmed the deadly links after finding a cluster of young women developing rare vaginal cancers. The drug was sold by a number of manufacturers who have since settled US litigation cases for billions of dollars but little or nothing has been done to highlight concerns across the UK.
Calls for inquiry
Forced adoption campaigners are now demanding a public inquiry and investigation into the health of women given the drug as well as their children exposed to its wide-ranging effects while still in the womb. Marion McMillan, 73, from Paisley, who was forced to give up her baby boy in 1966 simply because she was unmarried, said she was ordered to take 16 tablets a day for almost a week after she gave birth in a mother and baby home. Now dying with cancer, she said: “I’ve met many forced adoption victims over the years who were all given the same drug to dry up their breast milk as quickly as possible after they’d given birth. It was seen as an inconvenience once we’d given birth so we were told to take the tablets, which were handed out like sweets. I was given four, four times a day until my breast milk dried up and I was sent home. Looking back, I fear I was given an overdose of very powerful hormones. Nobody ever explained what they were or whether there were any side effects. I was just ordered to take them, and as a very vulnerable, frightened teenager on my own and disowned by my horrified parents, I had nobody to ask and nobody to protect my best interests. Like the thousands of other forced adoption victims, I simply did what I was told.”
McMillan claims like many other victims she was denied painkillers, there was no stitching after the traumatic birth of her son, and she says she has been plagued by gynaecological problems ever since. More than two years ago she was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, which has spread from her lungs to her liver. She has so far defied the terminal diagnosis she was given following aggressive chemotherapy. It took 40 years before she was eventually reunited with the son taken from her, unaware that as she searched for him, he was looking for her. She met husband George after returning from the mother and baby home, and the couple went on to have a family together. The campaigner, whose heartbreaking story brought tears to politicians in the Scottish Parliament last month, has spent decades terrified that the drugs given to her had affected any of her three children. She said: “I was horrified to learn those drugs can cause increased risks of cancer and a number of other serious health issues in the children I had after my firstborn, and I’ve agonised over that and warned them to be vigilant. But it terrifies me that so little has been made public about this medical scandal, and I fear most of the women given this drug will have no inkling of the consequences. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer just over two years ago and I’d like to know whether the drugs I was given played any part in what’s happened to me, and the very least all those other mums and their children deserve is to know the truth about the risks they were exposed to and a check done to see how their health is.”
McMillan, who is due to meet Children’s Minister Clare Haughey along with other campaigners, is calling for a public inquiry so all the health risks and human rights abuses they suffered can no longer be “swept under the carpet”. She said: “For almost 60 years the 60,000 women who were forced adoption victims have been treated as if we are Scotland’s dirty little secret when our only ‘crime’ was that we were not married when we became pregnant. But this is no longer just about challenging the morality of society at that time. There are extremely serious health implications that must be addressed for the women who were given this drug and the generations of their children who may be suffering the lasting effects. The health time bomb is ticking and the government cannot continue ignoring what was a truly dreadful part of Scotland’s history. Very few women given those drugs will even know the danger we were exposed to, or the effect on our children and grandchildren.”
Civil law expert George Clark of Quantum Claims said the government had a duty to investigate: “The government must find a way to fully assess just how widely these drugs were administered, and health authorities must be able to follow-up with health checks. Everyone affected must be given the full information available on all the known side effects so they can be vigilant and seek treatment if necessary.”
MSP Monica Lennon, who has led Holyrood’s Cross Party Committee on Women’s Health said: “It’s bad enough that SNP ministers have tried to sweep the mental health impact of forced adoption under the carpet. The physical impacts must be brought into the light too, including the potential link between cancer and drugs women were made to take to stop their breast milk. A formal apology from the Scottish Government would finally acknowledge all of the damage inflicted on the mothers and their babies, and unlock a full investigation into these cruel and sinister practices.”
DES was developed by British biochemist Edward Charles Dodds in 1938. Dodds never intended it to be used as a drug and didn’t patent it, allowing more than 200 drug companies around the world to manufacture DES. Increasingly concerned over the many uses DES was being prescribed for, Dodds spoke out fiercely about the use of synthetic hormones due to the unknown effect they can have on the body and future generations. Diethylstilbestrol, known as Stilbestrol in the UK, was initially thought to prevent miscarriage and help with period pain. It was also used for a number of other issues, including preventing women growing too tall. It was even used as chemical castration, administered to Enigma hero Alan Turing to “treat” his homosexuality as an alternative to prison. The side effects were awful and Turing would later take his own life. In 1970, a Boston doctor identified links between the drug and rare vaginal cancers in young women and after a Food & Drug Administration alert, it was gradually withdrawn except for small doses used to treat prostate cancer in men. Despite huge settlements in the US to victims, very little is publicly available in the UK. Australia’s forced adoption victims asked their government to act during the country’s official apology in 2013, but are still waiting.
Hollywood writer Caitlin McCarthy is about to cast her film Wonder Drug which will tell the story of how DES was given to millions of unsuspecting women with devastating consequences for generations of children.
McCarthy, 50, said: “I only discovered when I was 35 that I was a victim of this drug. It was given to my mother before I was born and of course she, like so many other women around the world, had no idea she’d been given it or what the consequences would be. I’m what is known as a DES Daughter, although the effect of the drug continues down through generations, too. I have structural differences in my cervix, and need regular check-ups as I’m at increased risk of breast and vaginal cancers. I was extremely lucky to be diagnosed when I was, during a routine operation, simply because the doctor I had was experienced in recognising the effects of the drug. It was devastating, not just for me but also for my poor mother Ann who immediately felt terribly guilty even though she had no idea she had even been given DES in a prenatal vitamin treatment. After the shock of what I’d been exposed to subsided, I began researching how this happened and discovered DES was given to millions around the world. My film exposes the fortunes made by the drug companies, and those who turned a blind eye and did little to warn victims even when the cancer links became clear in 1971. For over 40 years this scandal has been shrouded in silence even though so many people and at least three generations are affected. Everybody has heard about Thalidomide. But hardly anyone has heard about DES. I aim to change that.”
McCarthy is calling on governments around the world to alert women who were given the drug and for health checks for them and any children they have since had.
She said: “It’s desperately sad DES was given to victims of forced adoption who not only suffered by losing their babies, but their health and the health of their other children has been put at dreadful risk because of this drug. It’s a tragedy that this happened at all. But the resounding silence that surrounds it is one of the biggest medical scandals of all time. The silence cannot be allowed to continue. People deserve the truth. They need help and support. Governments cannot continue ignoring this issue. It saddens me and angers me that in all these years there has been no proper apology from either the drug companies or the watchdogs who were supposed to prevent any of this happening. When the first links with cancer were first identified in 1971, the Food & Drug Administration could have issued a ban and taken action so the rest of the world would sit up and react. Instead all it did was issue an alert and little notice was taken. That was shameful. In 2011, the FDA finally admitted DES was a ‘tragedy’. But they still did not apologise.”
Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell aims to premiere Wonder Drug next year. McCarthy said: “I hope the film will get people talking. The silence has already damaged millions of lives. It has to end.”
Ministers urged to apologise to victims
Marion McMillan will urge the Scottish Government to give a formal apology to the victims of Scotland’s forced adoption scandal when she meets a minister this week. She will see Clare Haughey on Thursday when she will ask the minister for children and young people to encourage the Scottish Government to apologise. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she felt “deep sadness” over the issue and would consider an apology after Labour MSP Neil Bibby raised the cases of Marion and 60,000 other Scottish mothers. Meanwhile, MP Lisa Cameron, who sits on Westminster’s all-party Health Committee, said the revelations about the drugs given to victims were deeply concerning: “This is yet another disturbing, hidden aspect to the forced adoption scandal. I’m raising questions in the House of Commons and have written to the Scottish health secretary.”
The Scottish Government said: “We have enormous sympathy for the women and families who have been harmed by Stilbestrol.”
It will “highlight this issue” with UK drug watchdog the Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which said in 1973 the Committee on Safety of Medicines wrote to doctors to advise against using the drug to treat pregnant women. In 2002, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported 14 cases of cancer linked to the drug. It said: “Women who believe they may have been exposed to DES in utero and are concerned about the risks of vaginal and cervical cancer should be offered careful monitoring by annual colposcopic examinations.”