Girls drugged at Church of England care home during 1970s ‘had babies with birth defects’
By Rebecca Camber
Last updated at 8:48 PM on 07th April 2009
Hundreds of teenage girls who were drugged at care homes in the 1970s may have given birth to children with birth defects.
The Church of England is facing calls for an inquiry after it emerged that youngsters given a cocktail of dangerous drugs at one of its care homes later gave birth to disabled children.
Experts now believe hundreds of young girls heavily sedated in UK care homes during the 1970s and 1980s may be at risk of having children with genetic defects due to the drugs they were given.
Psychiatrist Dr Marenthiran Perinpanayagam prescribed drugs to the teenage girls
Records at Kendall House show children were restrained and forced to take pills prescribed for schizophrenics, psychotics and Parkinson’s disease, even though none suffered from these conditions.
One former resident, Teresa Cooper, 41, is petitioning the Government for an inquiry into the care home after three of her children were born with defects.
Files seen by Radio 4’s Today Programme show that during the 32 months Miss Cooper was at the home, she was given medication at least 1,248 times, including three major tranquilisers and anti-depressants.
She was also given up to ten times the recommended dose of Valium.
Reports show Miss Cooper had no mental illness.
She claims girls were restrained and made to undergo chemotherapy, despite not having cancer.
Children were also allegedly subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the home, which closed in 1986 following concerns about the drugs prescribed.
Nine other former residents of Kendall House who were similarly drugged, have told how their children born decades later suffer from defects including hydrocephalus, heart and joint problems and neurofibromatosis - small tumours on the nerve endings - as well as dyslexia and learning difficulties.
The doctor who prescribed the drugs, Dr Marenthiran Perinpanayagam wrote to a medical journal describing his experiments with tranquilisers on girls in 1977 but the location of the experiments was not mentioned.
Dr Perinpanayagam died in 1988.
Jeffrey Aronson, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Oxford University, said: ‘Even in the 1980s, for a 14-year-old girl, with no history of psychiatric illness whatsoever, who is in a home for social reasons, to be given large doses of many different psychoactive drugs in this way is very, very unusual.
‘Changes in genes and chromosomes induced by drugs may lead to birth defects or abnormalities later in life.
‘But the fact that there were ten of them affected is quite suggestive.’
Childcare experts from the Ofsted inspectorate said hundreds of children may have been drugged in the care system during the 70s and 80s, subjecting them to the same health risks.
A BBC investigation identified six other children’s homes using drugs.
Mike Lindsay, chief adviser at the children’s rights director’s office at Ofsted, said: ‘Using drugs to control the behaviour of children was perfectly acceptable as far as their own professional understanding at that time went.’
A Church of England statement on behalf of the Diocese of Rochester said it could not comment on individual circumstances but if an investigation is launched, they would co-operate fully.
Teresa Cooper was one of at least ten former residents of the home in Gravesend, Kent”
Teresa Cooper was sent to Kendall House care home at the age of 14 due to ‘difficult home circumstances’.
She recalls her arrival: ‘I didn’t want to go in. I knew something was wrong. There were bars on the window.
‘The first thing that they did in the morning when we woke up was take me downstairs and make me line up for tablets.
‘Nobody told me what they were, what they were for - they just told me that it was for my own good.’
The mother-of-three says she was often held down by up to six members of staff to be sedated and the drugs drove her to self-harm.
She told the BBC: ‘Every single day I wanted to die and because I couldn’t die I’d cut myself up. Because I didn’t feel the pain really - you don’t feel the pain - you’re so drugged you don’t feel it.’
After leaving the home at 16, she started a family a few years later.
Her eldest son was born with respiratory problems, her second was born blind with learning difficulties and her third, Sarah, who is now 16, was born with a small jaw, known as Pierre Robin Syndrome, and a cleft palate.
She says some of the girls at the home later committed suicide due to the trauma and she also attempted to end her life.
Miss Cooper, who wrote Trust No One about her experiences at the home, already has hundreds of signatures for her online petition demanding Gordon Brown launch an investigation.
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