A tale of two baby switcheroos

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It appears better wine and more vacation days are not the only perks to living in France. Lawmakers are also more sympathetic when it comes to compensating parents who have their babies switched at birth.

A French court this week awarded two families a total CDN $2.6 million after finally confirming that their daughters were switched at birth 20 years ago.

So, you may be wondering: what’s the going rate for Canadian parents who have endured a similar tragedy? The answer: bupkis.

But back to France for a minute. In 1994, two women gave birth at a clinic in Cannes, and nurses accidentally switched their girls while placing them in the same incubator. The moms were immediately suspicious and the doubts grew as the girls grew up bearing little resemblance to their parents.

A paternity test 10 years ago set the legal process in motion. The families sued for six times the amount they eventually got, though their award works out to about $570,000 for each switched daughter, $428,000 for each parent and another $85,000 for each affected sibling.

The same year those two French moms gave birth, two long-separated Canadian brothers discovered a common bond.

Their dramatic story began in 1971 when mother Laura Cain was forced to give up her newborn twins, being unable to raise them at the time. But months later, she asked to get them back and the Children’s Aid Society returned two kids… however only one of them was her biological son. The other had been adopted and it took some fantastic coincidences to reunite them.

In 1992, the two brothers both attended Carleton University, where mutual friends noticed their uncanny similarity and introduced them. They became friends, met each other’s parents and finally discovered the truth in 1994.

The families did launch a lawsuit, but a judge dismissed it. Apparently, the woman who switched the children in 1971 was debilitated from Alzheimer’s Disease by 1994 and couldn’t make a capable witness.

While baby switches are rare, they usually end up in court. The French case is one of the largest awards in recent memory and may well serve as a precedent for future cases.

That, however, won’t help the Canadian twins.

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