Medicine: Liquor and Babies

Aristotle observed that "drunken and harebrained" women most often had children like themselves, "morose and languid." Eighteenth-century British physicians reported that drinking gin led not only to the widespread debauchery of the time—which was vividly depicted in Hogarth's etchings—but also to a spate of "weak, feeble and distempered children." Modern medicine has only recently confirmed the ancient folklore. Alcoholic mothers often do bear children with a host of birth defects: skull and facial deformations, defects in the cardiovascular system and mental and physical retardation.

A revival of interest in the existence of what doctors call fetal alcohol syndrome was spurred in 1973,...

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