New York County Lawyers Association's Edith I Spivak Award

Presentation of Award to Sybil Shainwald

“Sybil Shainwald’s compassion and professional skills have ennobled the practice of law.” These words of United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein, before whom Ms. Shainwald appeared hundreds of times in championing her clients’ rights, encapsulate the life and career of the woman we honor today.

The struggle for women’s rights, one of the great movements in our history, continues to have a profound impact on our society. The quality and scope of health care is an integral part of that struggle worldwide. The Women’s Rights Committee of the New York Lawyers’ Association presents the 2010 Edith I. Spivack Award, the highest honor this Committee bestows, to Sybil Shainwald. This award honors those who have dedicated themselves to advancing the status of women and women’s rights.

Since the beginning of her legal career, Sybil Shainwald has focused almost exclusively on women’s health issues. Through her groundbreaking advocacy, she has advanced a deep commitment to social justice and women’s rights. The list of landmark cases with which she has been involved is impressive. She was instrumental in expanding the statute of limitations for latent injuries in New York, and filed the first case under the Revival and Discovery Statute, thus making compensation possible for thousands of women and their children, whose injuries had been ignored.

Sybil Shainwald was co-counsel in Bichler v. Lilly, the nation’s first DES daughter victory, after which thousands of cases were successfully litigated on behalf of women injured by DES. Ms. Shainwald also filed a class action which resulted in the establishment of an Emergency Fund for DES daughters.

Sybil Shainwald brought the initial cases for the lactation suppressant Parlodel and the pregnancy screening test Chorionic Villus Sampling, and has litigated thousands of other cases involving drugs and devices harmful to women and their children. She represented two thousand women in the Dalkon Shield class action against A.H. Robins, and represents the women of the world in breast implant litigation. She was successful in setting up a $25 million fund for women outside the United States.

Ms. Shainwald has been a vocal opponent of the use of Norplant and DepoProvera: two long-acting contraceptives used especially in developing countries. She has been a force in the campaign for proactive education and information dissemination from Appalachia to Africa. She was chair of the National Women’s Health Network; a founding member of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice; a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Consumer Consortium; an integral part of the First Black Women’s Health conference, the first Rural Women’s Health Conference, and many other grass roots women’s groups, which she also helps fund.

Sybil Shainwald’s professional writings, lectures, media appearances, and testimony before congressional committees and the FDA have raised the national consciousness on crucial women’s health issues.

Ms. Shainwald has said her reason for going to law school was “to make a perfect world, and in this I’ve been eminently unsuccessful.” If, as the Hebrew sages state, “to save a life is to save the world,” Ms. Shainwald has in fact been eminently successful, in that her pioneering advocacy on behalf of women’s health has saved many lives.

It is a privilege to present the 2010 Edith I. Spivak award to Ms. Sybil Shainwald.