One in this series of independently-produced documentaries. This program is an autobiographical account of five years in Judith Helfand's life as she deals with cervical cancer caused by in utero exposure to a drug known as DES. First, Judith explains how she learned of her mother's use of DES. She explains that the drug was used as a safeguard against miscarriage from the 1940s through the 1960s; once the FDA banned DES in 1971, millions of women and their children had been exposed to the drug, and many "DES daughters" were suffering from cancer and reproductive problems. On March 13, 1990, Judith enters the hospital and undergoes extensive surgery that includes a hysterectomy. During her recovery period, she copes with her pain by making a video documentary of the healing process; she also hires a product liability lawyer and files a suit against the pharmaceutical company that produced her mother's prescriptions. The documentary then focuses on the long-term effects of DES on her family, her involvement with the DES Cancer Network (DCN), and her own journey of healing with help from family and political activities. Highlights include the following: a discussion with Judith's ex-boyfriend about her infertility; personal accounts from DCN members Margaret Lee Braun and Marsha Mainzer and scenes from DCN meetings; DCN trips to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress for research and education on DES, and the resulting meetings with the National Institute of Health; the success of Judith's lawsuit and its impact on her life; Judith's bittersweet experience of her nephew's ritual circumcision; sobering statistics on the health and mortality of a study group of "DES daughters"; the passage of a DES education and research bill; and information on the early research into DES that proved the drug to be carcinogenic, destructive to reproductive organs, and ineffective in preventing miscarriage, but that was kept from the public for twelve years.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1998.


  • DATE: June 17, 1997 Tuesday 10:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:56:46
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:54084
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1988-


  • Lisa Heller … Executive Producer
  • Douglas Chang … Coordinating Producer
  • Jefferson Spady … Producer
  • Judith Helfand … Producer, Director, Writer
  • Melanie Kent … Associate Producer
  • Alice Maurice … Associate Producer
  • Karen Sanderson … Consulting Producer
  • Sarah Tuft … Consulting Producer
  • Marc N. Weiss … Created by
  • Irena Klepfisz … Writer
  • Talking Heads, The … Theme Music by
  • Jo Ann Allen … Announcer
  • Alicia Svigals … Composer
  • Frank London … Composer
  • David Krakauer … Composer
  • Paul Morrissett … Composer
  • The Klezmatics … Music Group, Original score performed by, "Romanian Fantasy"
  • Adrienne Cooper … Singer, "Shlof, Shlof, Shlof"
  • Marsha Mainzer