Pat Cody, Founder of DES Action. My @BBCWomansHour #WHPowerList #charity


Over the last few months Woman’s Hour on Radio Four has been showcasing seventy women who have promoted women’s issues or represented women in some way  through the last seven decades that the programme has run. They presented the final seven last week:

There was one woman who I think was missed; a woman who, around her own kitchen table, started a charity which has gone from strength to strength in most countries, except the UK.

Pat Cody  started DES Action in 1971 (   after she learned that the daughters of women who took the anti-miscarriage drug during pregnancy developed cancer and reproductive problems. Pat had taken the drug while pregnant with her first daughter, Martha. Pat served as program director for the group and edited its newsletter. She passed away in September 2010.

Images of Diethylstilboestrol/ Stilboestrol(DES)


The mission of DES Action groups worldwide is to identify, educate, provide support to, and advocate for DES-exposed individuals as well as educate health care professionals.

Diethylstilboestrol/ Stilboestrol(DES), a drug given to women for 30 years up to 1973, has been found to cause a rare form of vaginal and cervical cancer in some of the daughters of the women who took it, as well as fertility problems. Compensation of an estimated $1.5bn has been paid out in the US. 

In 1938, DES (Stilboestrol/ Diethylstilboestrol) was created by Charles Dodds.  It was expected that his synthetic oestrogen would help prevent miscarriages. At the time it was not known how dangerous this drug would be to developing foetuses. Years later, he raised concerns about DES but by then very few in the medical field were listening. .In the early 1970s cases of a rare vaginal/cervical cancer were being diagnosed in young. Now researchers are investigating whether DES health issues are extending into the next generation, the so-called DES Grandchildren. As study results come in, there is growing evidence that this group has been adversely impacted by a drug prescribed to their grandmothers.

I wrote an article for the UK based DES Action (folded  a few years ago due to lack of funds and support ). Now DES Action USA help and advice anyone who contacts them. They have a website: The charity also has a newsletter, Voice, to which anyone interested can subscribe. 

Many women contacted me after the article was published and I heard some heart-breaking accounts of their lives. In an attempt to reach more people I wrote a short story which eventually resulted in Silent Trauma, a family saga based around the facts of the drug: 

Contemplate woman in dark

I did a tremendous amount of research before I wrote the book. Pat Cody was generous enough to send me a copy of her own book: DES Voices, From Anger to Action:  and gave me permission  to quote any part of her  book.


 I was also allowed to quote the words of many of the women I contacted. 

I am constantly made aware of the lack of knowledge of Stilboestrol in this country. Whenever I begin to talk about the drug most people assume I am talking about Thalidomide.  When I explain about the damage the drug has caused the response is almost always amazement and disgust that consecutive UK Government have been reluctant to help – or, I’m afraid, acknowledge, that  the consequences of Stilboestrol continues.

I should also mention that there is a wonderful DES Daughter in the UK who has a website – – which explains a great deal about Diethystilboestrol is constantly updated with the latest news. She also has a Facebook page which can be found by just typing in DES daughter and a Twitter account:

So there we have it; Pat Cody, founder member of DES Action, my choice for #WHPowerList.