Sunday, August 30, 2009

This comment deserves ttention


This comment relates to both of your files today. First, a little disclosure on my part. 30-odd years ago while still living in Winnipeg we adopted our second child, a boy born to a teenage aboriginal mother. We were aware that there were complications during the delivery, a result of a lack of any prenatal care by the mother, but not until many years later did we discover that the mother had a lengthy history of alcohol abuse.

The combination of these factors resulted in years of frustration for our son and ourselves. Eventually, a diagnosis of ADD confirmed our worst fears. To make a long story short, a biography of our son would read like that of many young delinquents. In the 70's there was little help available for children like our son and today he still struggles with his addictive behaviour, but is finally making attempts at recovery.

While today it is commonplace to see ads warning women about the danger of drinking during a pregnancy, not that long ago the effects of alcohol and drugs on a fetus were not well understood. As I now understand it, the first trimester is particularly important in the brain development of a fetus. Impulse control, general intellectual development, and a tendency toward addictive behaviour seem to be a lifelong legacy of maternal substance use, not only substance abuse.

I firmly believe that the societal cost of this legacy is staggering, not only in financial terms but in the human misery and suffering associated with it. A national problem like this requires multiple interventions. But one that I have long believed would be worth considering is a voluntary prenatal programme that would provide financial incentives for women who abstain from alcohol and drugs during their pregnancy. Such an endeavour might even include residential supports of various kinds to enable some women to escape toxic social environments.

I realize that there are many public health initiatives intended to deal with this problem, but to the best of my knowledge, there is not a programme which offers women (particularly women with limited financial resources) financial incentives to protect their unborn children. Money talks.

Finally, the national tragedy of so many murdered and missing aboriginal women does speak to the frightening presence of murderous men in our society. While racial explanations might explain some of this phenomenon, it seems to me that substance abuse and poverty in all its forms may also be a major factor. How can we tolerate child poverty to the extent that we do in BC and elsewhere and not expect tragic consequences. As the automotive ads so clearly put it, "Pay me now or pay me later".

Dave C.


Gary L said...

A very somber and thought provoking Post David, and I thank you for sharing it...............

Anonymous said...

I have also wondered what effect drugs and alcohol have on sperm, which we always seem to forget has an integral role in creating a fetus. Unfortunately, it makes sense that a drug-addled father could, through drugged sperm, be unwittingly harming his child-to-be. Let's get everybody to clean up their acts for their own sakes and that of any children they might have.