BSTS Talk Show #3: Book Discussion on “The Broken Cord” by Michael Dorris

“Do you want a beer?” 

Thanks, man. I’ve already had enough.”
In other words, “I’ve had enough in utero for 10 people in 10 lifetimes.”  This is a frequent role play discussion I have with my patients who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix! talk show is thrilled to present our third filming in which we discuss the book, “The Broken Cord” by Michael Dorris. His story depicts his life with an adoptive son, Adam, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The story is heartbreaking, describing both Adam’s struggles throughout life and his father’s worries, frustrations, and despair raising a child with permanent brain damage.  There was hope in the end.  Michael Dorris helped establish the National Organization on FAS ( and advocated for policies to label alcohol with the US Surgeon General’s warning.

Watch our book discussion about “The Broken Cord” on our YouTube channel

“The Broken Cord should be required reading for all medical professionals and social workers, and especially for pregnant women, and women who contemplate pregnancy, who may be tempted to drink.” (New York Times Book Review)

We would love our readers to share their responses to “the Broken Cord” with us. Let’s start with my initial response. After reading The Broken Cord, I left my job in pharmaceutical research to educate myself by obtaining a Master of Public Health and a Doctorate of Medicine in order to help promote awareness about this misunderstood and under diagnosed condition.  Here are a few of my perspectives shared with my interns this summer just before we all read the book in preparation for the talk show:
  • When I read the Broken Cord 21 years ago for the first time, I was upset that I did not learn about this in college – having graduated with high honors with a degree in microbiology.  What could be more important to learn in all the years of biology courses that I have taken than what such a pervasively used beverage like alcohol does to the developing baby – even before you know you are pregnant???
  • When I re-read the book this time, I was even angrier that many people remain unaware of this problem and receive mixed messages in the media and from doctors.  Many doctors are still telling women that a little alcohol is okay. What’s a little alcohol to one woman is a Long Island Iced tea – containing about 6 shots of pure liquor!
  • Michael Dorris had a first hand experience with the frustration, dismay, disappointment and heart ache in raising a child with FASD before anyone really knew it existed.  It’s been 40 years since he adopted his son, and sadly, the school systems, the medical community, the alcohol industry, and the public as a whole remains indifferent and seems unconcerned with the fact that our “social drug of choice” is leading to intellectual disability in 1-5% of children annually.

What did you think when you read “The Broken Cord” for the first time?