Tragedy of errors: Hanoi hospital switches babies, accepts mistake six years later

By Nam Phuong   July 13, 2018 | 08:47 am GMT+7

One of the mothers, divorced by her husband who blamed her for adultery, is not yet ready to return the ‘wrong’ child.

A Hanoi resident has petitioned the Health Ministry to get his biological child back after a general hospital gave it to another family six years ago and failed to admit or repent when confronted with the error very soon after.

Phung Giang Son, 28, has asked the ministry to investigate the switch that took place in 2012 after his baby was born at the Ba Vi General Hospital in the eponymous district, an hour and a half drive to the east of downtown Hanoi.

Son said he and his wife immediately suspected that there had been a mistake because the baby they were given was wearing a different diaper.

However, the hospital staff refused to entertain their suspicion and insisted that there had been no mistake.

Ba Vi District General Hospital which gave two newborns to wrong parents six years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

Ba Vi District General Hospital which gave two newborns to wrong parents six years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

While Son’s family brought up the child lovingly, they could spot no resemblance to the family as he grew up. Finally, last April, Son and his wife secretly did a DNA test which confirmed their worst fears.

They had been bringing up somebody else’s baby.

“My family was shocked and seriously hurt. This mistake by the hospital is unforgivable,” Son said in his petition.

When confronted again with the DNA test results, the hospital admitted the mistake and said it was likely that the real baby had been given to another couple that they said resembled Son and his wife.

This couple lives about 10 kilometers away from Son.

The hospital pledged to do everything to help the two children switched at birth reunite with their biological parents but kept dithering and taking no decisive action, prompting Son to petition the Health Ministry.

He expressed his wish to get his biological son back and called for tough action against the hospital as well as the people directly responsible for the switch.

A hospital representative has since said that the delay in reuniting the children with their biological parents was caused by the other family’s refusal to give up the child they had been rearing for six years.

Vu Thi Huong, the woman whose son was switched with Son’s, has not accepted the truth she has learnt from subsequent DNA tests, and has refused to return the child she has been bringing up.

Vu Thi Huong, one of the mothers whose sons were switched at birth in Hanoi six years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong

Vu Thi Huong, one of the mothers whose sons were switched at birth in Hanoi six years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong

This has led to the delay despite the hospital’s efforts, the representative said.

The hospital had earlier publicly apologized to the families, saying it will compensate for the mental anguish and material losses suffered by its mistake.

Latest news reports say that Huong, now principal of a private kindergarten, was divorced by her husband who suspected her of adultery, because the child looked nothing like its parents. The trauma she’s suffered, and the long-term psychological impacts on the children are the offshoots of the hospital’s blunder.

“The medical staff involved in the 2012 accident have faced disciplinary action for their carelessness and negligence that has hurt the two families and affected the prestige of the heath sector,” said Nguyen Quoc Hung, director of the hospital.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time hospitals in Vietnam have made such grave errors.

The Binh Long General Hospital in the southern province of Binh Phuoc committed a similar mistake that upturned the lives of two little girls and their parents.

Huynh Thi Ngoc Yen and Vu Ngoc Lan Anh, both aged five, were switched at birth at the hospital. They lived normal lives for three years until the mistake was exposed in 2016, shocking the public.

In another case, two families in Hanoi raised the “wrong” girl for over 40 years and were reunited with the “right” (biological) children a little more than a year ago.

 
 
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