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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Should we maintain baby hatches in our society?

Atsushi Asai1* and Hiroko Ishimoto2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioethics, Kumamoto University Graduate School of Medical Science, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, 1-1-1 Honjo, Kumamoto 860-8556, Japan

2 Department of Bioethics, Kumamoto University Graduate School of Life Science, Kumamoto University, 1-1-1 Honjo, Kumamoto 860-8556, Japan

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BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-9

Published: 22 February 2013

Abstract

Background

A baby hatch called the “Stork’s Cradle” has been in place at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto City, Japan, since May 10, 2007. Babyklappes were first established in Germany in 2000, and there are currently more than 90 locations. Attitudes regarding baby hatches are divided in Japan and neither opinions for nor against baby hatches have thus far been overwhelming. To consider the appropriateness of baby hatches, we present and examine the validity of each major objection to establishing baby hatches.

Discussion

There are various objections to baby hatches as follows: It violates a child’s right to know the identity of his or her biological parents by allowing anonymous birth; it neglects fulfillment of the biological parents’ basic obligation to raise their child and its very availability induces abandonment of infants; some people abuse it for very selfish reasons; it cannot save babies’ lives; the rights of one parent can be ignored if the other surrenders a child without his or her consent; it puts a baby in medical jeopardy; and it has no clear legal basis. The authors would argue that there are many plausible refutations for each objection mainly based on priority of child’s right to life, pregnant women’s vulnerability and necessity of anonymity, social responsibility to protect and raise children, differences between dropping a child off at a baby hatch and child neglect, limited function of social childcare center, inevitability of abuse by a minority of people, necessary distinction between outcomes that occur only because baby hatches exist and those that occur regardless of their existence, important local direct and upmost measures for women in trouble, and difference between ambiguous legality and illegality.

Summary

We argue that a certain number of baby hatches should continue to be established as a last resort, in a form that can maintain anonymity if the parent dropping the child off so desires. It should be supported if it is initiated with good intentions; if the maximum possible effort is made at said facility to protect the interests, rights, and safety of the child; and if no clear evidence of harm exists.

Keywords:
Baby hatch; “Stork’s Cradle (Kounotori no Yurikago)”; Babyklappes; Japan; Child abuse; Child abandonment; Abortion