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Death of pediatrician Philippe Dehaene, specialist in fetal alcohol syndrome

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Death of pediatrician Philippe Dehaene, specialist in fetal alcohol syndrome
Written by madishthestylebar

Pediatrician Philippe Dehaene died on December 9, 2022, at the age of 94. He had devoted forty years of his career to having fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) recognized in France, the leading cause of mental handicap and non-genetic social maladjustment. He is also committed to the prevention of this neurodevelopmental disorder, linked to the mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“My adventure began in 1973 “, he says in a video produced in 2018 by the association SAF France. The pediatrician, based in Roubaix (North), attends a meeting with colleagues. ” We are presented with an American observation about a new malformation in children born to women who were alcoholic during pregnancy., he describes. These children all look alike, with a face characterized by a small cranial circumference, narrow eyes, a flat nose, an absence of gutter between the base of the nose and the upper lip, an erased chin…

For him, the announcement of this American discovery is a “extraordinary event” he confided. ” This type of child, I constantly encounter it in the nursery where I carry out part of my activities. » This will be the trigger for him that will trigger his commitment to the fight against this scourge. The denial was then collective. “Doctors, even great doctors, considered that alcohol was absolutely not dangerous during pregnancy. » A Nantes pediatrician, Paul Lemoine, who had identified these disorders around 1968, had preached in the desert.

The analysis: Article reserved for our subscribers Fetal alcoholism would affect one birth per day in France

Philippe Dehaene is convinced of the reality of the problem. In Roubaix, he opens a consultation devoted to alcoholic women who have already given birth to malformed children. “I will have the satisfaction of seeing women give up all alcoholic beverages during their pregnancy. “, he explained. After observing three affected children in the same family, he will see “ to be born a completely normal child at last”, free of any brain damage. A first success that will mark him.

preventable disease

Interest in this problem will never let go. “He will make it the fight of a lifetime, with a real breath of fresh air. Until the end, he remained preoccupied with the subject,” tsays David Germanaud, pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at the CEA’s NeuroSpin Research Center in Saclay (Essonne). Over the following decades, actions to combat fetal alcoholism multiplied in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. “under the impetus of Philippe Dehaene and his colleagues”tell Thierry Fillaut, historian, and Juliette Hontebeyrie and Florence Douguet, sociologists, in the review Psychotropics. This work will lead to the first measurements of the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in maternity wards in Roubaix”.

The disease, in reality, is completely preventable. “Forty years later, we are still faced with fetal alcohol, with disabled children, lamented Doctor Dehaene. Many of these children are undiagnosed. » The most important, according to him, remained the information of women. Since 2007, a logo featuring a pregnant woman in a crossed-out red circle must appear on any bottle of alcohol. But “the liquor lobby has made it tiny”, regrets the neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, his son, professor at the Collège de France and director of NeuroSpin. ” Philippe Dehaene was aware of the progress made since the 1970s, but he felt that in terms of public health, we could do much better.adds David Germanaud.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The success of a health prevention policy implies a fight against lobbies opposed to measures that disturb their interests”

The pediatrician will also touch on research. He will collaborate with a renowned American scientist, Ann Streissguth. Their work will support the effects of fetal alcohol and help to specify its frequency: nearly one live birth in 100. Later, it will be discovered that alongside the real FAS, due to the exposure of the fetus to high doses of alcohol, there are more discreet forms, without malformations but responsible for learning difficulties, school failure, conduct disorders, addictions in adolescence.

Philippe Dehaene has been a school. “He trained a generation of doctors, he was a common thread says David Germanaud. He was also the author of a “Que sais-je? », Pregnancy and Alcohol (PUF, 1995). The SAF France association paid tribute to ” this great humanist doctor, who had the courage to act concretely for equal opportunities”.

Philippe Dehaene in a few dates

February 8, 1928 Born in Wormhout (Nord)

1973 Beginning of its commitment for the recognition of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

December 9, 2022 Death in Roubaix (North)

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