Readers’ response to drinking mothers and brain-injured children

I recently reported that in the U.S. every year 40,000 children are born suffering with fetal alcoholic syndrome disease (FASD).

In Canada, there are 300,000 living with this problem. I asked, “Why doesn’t this human tragedy get as much attention as drunk driving?”

And “Should some of the women involved be sterilized?”

I’ve received a ton of responses.

SR writes, “I believe the Mothers against Drunk Driving lobby gets more attention because the media provides many dollars of free air time.”

R0 responds, “Dr. you are so-o-o-o-o right. Women who drink during pregnancy need to be sterilized. Full stop. Thank you and keep up the good work.”

NB wrote, “Your column should be made mandatory in every bar, liquor/beer store, transit vehicle, doctor’s office and pharmacy. It should also be taught every year from Grade 6 up.”

From MG, “There are many hard-truths about FASD that some people seem unable to face, and I appreciate you have spoken up about this terrible and preventable condition that is thrust upon the most vulnerable of our species. You have my support along with my girlfriend, a third year medical student”.

A school bus driver reported that a FASD child disrupted his entire bus. “I would tell him to sit down and he would kick and spit at me. I do not agree that these challenged children should be allowed to be in the mainstream as it takes away from the other children. Thank you for you honesty and the information you provide.”

An anonymous reader did not thank me. She remarked, “Drunk driving causes deaths. FASD does not. As a doctor you must have been educated ?????”

Another reader said, “Your article is intelligent, well-argued, but has an extreme and unreasonable conclusion. Drunk drivers can be ordered to go to AA. Possibly pregnant mothers could be forced to attend AA, give breath samples, and be sent to jail for the rest of the pregnancy for failing to comply.”

GU writes, “Mothers who drink during pregnancy should be prosecuted as child abusers. Why is it that the medical establishment isn’t outraged about this issue and doesn’t speak up about it? It appears our health and judicial systems need a major overhaul. Thanks for the education.”

Some families reported in great detail the trouble and stress of caring for a FASD child.

D. B. says, “Great article but you will receive a lot of negative mail suggesting any intrusion into the lives of women. Our adopted daughter had FASD and we watched her grow into a beautiful woman. She has elongated fingers on one hand, no toes on one foot, her ears are not fully rotated and she has hip problems. She has no concept of money, no moral standards, no emotional stability, the list goes on and on.”

D.B. continues, “She was born on a plane taking her mother to Winnipeg and is a full-blooded Ojibway. In researching this problem we have allowed the wild Indian stigma to become the easy way out.”

Some readers said I should spend some time on a First Nations reserve to see the extent of the problem. Actually I’ve recently been to one and will soon report on their other health problems, particularly Type 2 diabetes.

Another couple who adopted two children later discovered they both had FASD. They reported that, “The short version of our life is that it is moments of pure hell. But we love them. We have 10 grandkids and we suspect six are affected with FASD.”

R.A. writes, “I’m a new subscriber to the Narragansett Times and thoroughly enjoy your column. I have never seen these shocking financial stats of caring for these children. It’s an eye-opener and is truly a national economic and moral issue.”

The majority of readers were surprised at the extent of the problem. They were particularly appalled that women would be allowed to continue to have additional FASD children considering the social chaos that results.

The FASD problem will continue to be swept under the rug. But I hope my column will alert everyone to the potential dangers of alcohol during pregnancy.

Remember, I am not your doctor so this column is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure disease and only for informational purposes. So always consult with your doctor.

For comments, email info@docgiff.com.

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