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Book and Media Reviews
February 11, 2009

The Voice: A Memoir

JAMA. 2009;301(6):677. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.67

An estimated 12 000 children were born disabled during 1957-1962 after their mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy. This powerful teratogen caused a variety of severe congenital malformations, most notably phocomelia. Less than half of these individuals are still alive. The Voice: A Memoir is one man's tale of the legacy of thalidomide, from tragedy to triumph and from adversity to adulation.

Thomas Quasthoff was born disabled after his mother took thalidomide but nevertheless considers himself a fortunate fellow. Born in Germany in 1959, Quasthoff gives a compact description of his current physical appearance: “Here is a four-foot, three-inch concert singer without knee joints, arms, or upper thighs, with only four fingers on the right hand and three on the left.” Despite his small frame and malformed parts, he has a big voice and a bigger heart.

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