Europe

France baby-swap families win damages

  • 10 February 2015
  • From the section Europe
Media captionAs Hugh Schofield reports, the swap was only discovered when one of the girls felt she did not look like her father

The families of two French girls who were accidentally switched at birth 20 years ago have been awarded nearly €2m (£1.5m) in damages.

The clinic involved in the mix-up was ordered to compensate both girls - now women - their parents and siblings.

Both babies had been treated in the same incubator and were then given to the wrong parents.

Although the error was discovered 10 years ago, neither family has wanted to swap the girls back.

On Tuesday, the court in Grasse, southern France, ordered the clinic in Cannes to pay €400,000 to each of the girls.

Three parents concerned were awarded €300,000 and the clinic must pay €60,000 each to three siblings.

The figure awarded was less than one-sixth of the €12m the families had sought, but one of their lawyers said they would not appeal.

The lawyer said they were "relieved that the court had recognised the clinic was responsible".

Mothers' doubts

One of the mothers, Sophie Serrano, has spoken publicly about the mix-up, but the other family has chosen to stay out of the limelight.

Speaking before the court case, Ms Serrano told how she gave birth to a daughter in 1994 and the baby was placed in an incubator to be treated for jaundice.

Another newborn girl was also in the incubator and an auxiliary nurse unwittingly switched them.

Although both mothers expressed doubts at the time about their babies, because of their different skin tone and hair length, they were sent home anyway.

Ten years later, still plagued by doubts, Ms Serrano and her husband had tests which proved neither of them was the biological parent of their daughter, Manon.

After an investigation, the two families made contact with each other and eventually took the case to court, but there was never any question of reversing the swap.

The two families have since distanced themselves from each other.

"It was too difficult, so we each went our separate ways as it's so distressing," Ms Serrano said last December.

"It was the only way to find some stability again."

Speaking at the same time, Manon Serrano described meeting the other family as "a pretty disturbing moment".

"You find yourself in front of a woman who is biologically your mother but who is a stranger," she said.

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