I received a letter from Canada announcing that an international jury had granted me the 1985 Jellinek Prize which I received in Calgary during the 34th International Congress on Alcohol and Toxicology. For a long time, I had wanted to know the outcome of the children I had diagnosed originally. I first tried to contact the parents and sent 60 letters without any reference to alcohol, but did not receive a single response. Later on, I contacted the doctors and social services. For the 150 oldest files, I sent a letter to each doctor and social service where we had placed the children after their release from our hospital or La Civeliere. From 300 letters, I received 14 replies all telling me that the child’s whereabouts had been lost! The only solution left was to personally go to the establishments for the handicapped where I was sure to find some of them. But that was impossible for me to do while I was still practicing.
As soon as I retired, I undertook this task. The first ones found were all severely debilitated, which was easily explained by the category of the targeted establishments. This follow-up could not be of value unless I could find all of the individuals of a given group, thus avoiding selection bias. Hence, among my cases of fetopathy, I compiled the list of all those who had reached 18 years of age and were born in Loire Atlantique, so I could have some chance of finding them. I then embarked upon the task of finding them all, searching in the Loire Atlantique and some peripheral areas.
I searched in all the establishments, agencies and organizations in charge of housing, employing or placing the handicapped. In all, I contacted close to one hundred establishments. It did not mean a few months of work as I had planned at first, but rather ended up taking years, hundreds of letters, phone calls and thousands of kilometers of travel. I succeeded. I located all of the 50 Papotiere cases, that were the most severe, as I was always well received by the directors and the doctors in these establishments. I was missing two individuals, and so I visited the local registry in their places of birth. One was from Saint Nazaire where I found out that he had died at a young age. The other was from Nantes where I learned that though he was alive, he was a gypsy and difficult to locate.
I also succeeded in two-thirds of the other cases, though I was slowed down by two major organizations that should have been especially interested in my work. Retreating behind professional confidentiality, they refused to show me their files. It seemed ironic that they did not have the right to reveal a diagnosis that I had myself established 20 years earlier! Among the 105 fetopathies seen again at an adult age I observed that:
1. the facial dysmorphy had changed, often with a large nose and large chin (contrary to the newborn);
2. the statural and ponderal hypotrophy were attenuated;
3. the microcephaly persisted significantly(between 2-6 standard deviations);
4. the intellectual deficits persisted, as did the maladaptive behaviour.
An important finding has struck and worried me most — 14 offspring of alcoholic mothers, considered normal at birth with no visible facial dysmorphy, have been found as adults to have the same psychological problems and maladaptive behaviour. They also exhibit a slight trend toward microcephaly (-1 or -2 standard deviation). None had reached the average adult head circumference.