February 25, 2004 - For Immediate Release

Top Medical Doctors and Scientists Urge Major Media Outlets to Stop Perpetuating "Crack Baby" Myth

Signatories from Leading Hospitals and Research Institutes in US and Canada Agree That Term Lacks Scientific Basis and Is Dangerous to Children

Letter Sent to Washington Post, Arizona Republic, LA Weekly, Charleston Post and Courier, Amarillo Globe-News and Other Media Using These Terms

On February 25, 2004, thirty leading medical doctors, scientists and psychological researchers released a public letter calling on the media to stop the use of such terms as "crack baby" and "crack addicted baby" and similarly stigmatizing terms, such as "ice babies" and "meth babies." This broad group agrees that these terms lack scientific validity and should not be used.

Motivated by a New Jersey case in which the label was used to explain away apparent effort by the parents to starve some of their adopted foster children, these leading doctors and researchers collaborated to write a consensus statement requesting that the media stop using such terms.

Members of the consensus group agree, "These pejorative labels result in damaging stigma that hurts the children all of us are working so hard to protect."

The letter states in part:

As medical and psychological researchers with many years of experience studying addictions and prenatal exposure to psychoactive substances, we are writing to request that the terms "crack baby" and "crack addicted baby" be dropped from usage. These terms and similarly stigmatizing terms, such as "ice babies" and "meth babies," lack scientific validity and should not be used.

Throughout almost 20 years of research, none of us has identified a recognizable condition, syndrome or disorder that should be termed "crack baby." Some of our published research finds subtle effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in selected developmental domains, while other of our research publications do not. This is in contrast to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which has a narrow and specific set of criteria for diagnosis.

The term "crack addicted baby" is no less defensible.

We are deeply disappointed that American media continues to use a term that not only lacks any scientific basis but endangers and disenfranchises the children to whom it is applied.


Lynn M. Paltrow
Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women
153 Waverly Place, 6th Floor
New York, New York 10014
212-255-9252, 917-921-7421, or 212-254-9679 (fax)
E-mail: LMPNYC@aol.com
Web: www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

David C. Lewis, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Community Health, Brown University
Phone: 401-444-1818
E-Mail: David_Lewis@brown.edu

The full text of this letter with a complete list of signatories is available at: www.jointogether.org/sa/files/pdf/sciencenotstigma.pdf

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