Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can occur as a result of the mother of an unborn child drinking excessively high amounts of alcohol during pregnancy. It is believed that the alcohol crosses through the placenta causing fetal defects. These can range from mild to really severe and can affect sight, learning difficulties, facial features, kidney function, emotions and behaviour.
In 2009 an English local authority applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) for a 2 year old to be awarded compensation on the basis that the victim had been a victim of a crime in utero. Awarding the compensation involved showing a crime has been committed. The local authority stated the victim (the unborn child) had been poisoned, however the mother was not charged with carrying out a criminal act. CICA did not agree the mother was a criminal and the application for an award was turned down. The local authority in whose care the child is, decided to challenge that decision and has requested to take the case to the Court of Appeal. This request has not yet been accepted.
The issue at stake is when does a victim become a victim, can it be pre-birth and should they be compensated? After all too many need life long physical or emotional support as a result. Can we even answer when does a fetus become a person with rights? There are hugely varying opinions about when ‘right to life’ begins.
In the US we are seeing the beginning of a trend where during divorce or custody proceedings a father is asking for the children to be tested if he believes his ex drank during pregnancy.
Teaching parenting skills at Riverside Cares is such an important pillar of what we do and discussing topics such as drinking during pregnancy or what to do if we see a friend who is in trouble and drinking too much is a topic we will be adding into our spring programme, sign up for updates if you would like to stay informed.
Do you think that the children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are victims of a crime and should they be compensated? At what point does a fetus become a person? The wider implication of an award being made would be far ranging but that is not a reason to back away from making it. If a child is compensated then racing up fast is the question, how should the mother be treated if it has been accepted that she did carry out a criminal act, but then is she potentially a victim too?