Court acquits drunk driver due to “home brewer syndrome”

Published On: 29.April.2024Categories: Legal2 min read
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Christina Schröder writes about legal topics for the Love & Law Blog at Recht 24/7.

A rare medical case causes a stir

In Bruges, Belgium, a curious court case made the headlines: A 40-year-old man who was repeatedly caught driving with high alcohol levels was acquitted by the court. The reason for this unusual judgement is a rare medical condition known as home brewer syndrome .

What is “home brewer syndrome”?

Home brewer syndrome is a rare metabolic disorder in which the microbiome in the gut is disturbed. This disorder allows yeast to multiply in the gut and produce alcohol. In affected individuals, this can lead to high alcohol levels in the blood without alcohol consumption. This unwanted alcoholic fermentation in the body not only leads to alcoholisation, but also to the release of potentially liver-damaging substances.

The court’s decision

Despite the high blood alcohol levels of 2.1 and 1.6 measured, the court ruled that the man could not be held responsible for his actions as he was suffering from this unusual syndrome. The case attracted international attention and was picked up by various media outlets. Although the public prosecutor’s office called for the man to be declared unfit to drive, the court refused to do so. Instead, the man was ordered to combat his illness with medical means to prevent further production of alcohol in his body.

The challenges and consequences

This judgement raises important questions about responsibility and road safety. It also emphasises the need for accurate medical diagnosis and treatment for rare conditions such as home brewer syndrome. The man concerned was already on a low carbohydrate diet to minimise alcoholic fermentation in his body.

This case shows how complex the interaction between medicine, law and personal responsibility can be. It also offers an important lesson about the rarity and impact of unusual medical conditions that can affect individuals’ lives in unexpected ways.

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