The Ring Irish College case

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Wellcome Foundation Ltd
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About this work


Diphtheria vaccine litigation: correspondence files, specialist reports, court papers, and press coverage.

"At the end of 1936, 38 children at Ring Irish College in County Waterford, Ireland, were inoculated with diphtheria vaccine from a single bottle of BW&Co's TAF. Five months later, one of the children died from miliary tuberculosis and 23 came down with the disease in varying forms, but recovered. The inquest in the following June was attended by O'Brien and Parish on behalf of the Wellcome Foundation. The school medical officer, Dr D T McCarthy, was exonerated of all culpability by the jury, who declared that the vaccine bottle must have contained tubercle bacilli." Roy Church and E M Tansey, Burroughs Wellcome & Co: knowledge, trust, profit and the transformation of the British pharmaceutical industry, 1880-1940 (2007), p. 353.

Both Dr McCarthy and The Wellcome Foundation Ltd were sued, unsuccessfully, for damages by the girl's father.

Church and Tansey (2007) provide a useful summary, as do extensive contemporaneous newspaper reports (WF/L/02/35-36). See also "Brief for Counsel (Pleadings and Evidence) on behalf of the Defendants, The Wellcome Foundation Ltd" (WF/L/02/34), which is fully indexed.



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36 files

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Copyright assigned to the Wellcome Trust

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Please see main WF collection description (ref. 'WF').

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