Japanese hospital tests baby hatch

A Catholic-linked hospital in Kumamoto, south-western Japan, is testing the country's first baby hatch where mothers can anonymously drop off newborn babies.

The Age reports that Jikei Hospital has built an incubator-like hatch with access from the outside to allow babies to be dropped off safely and anonymously.

According to Mainichi newspaper, the drop-off point, named "Akachan Posuto: Konotori no Yurikago" (Baby Postbox: Stork's Cradle), is the first of its kind in Japan. It consists of a hatch measuring 50 by 60 centimetres that opens to a warmed bed where newborn babies can be placed.

Hospital staff hope the hatch, nicknamed the cradle of storks, will protect the lives of abandoned babies.

The system is already in use in Germany and a similar facility operates in Italy.

But critics say the scheme may encourage people to leave their babies, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been quoted as saying he opposes the idea of creating a system where parents can abandon a child anonymously.

In the test run, hospital staff were notified by an alarm, a blinking light and a video image when a baby doll was placed inside the hatch.

When the hatch is opened, a sensor is activated, and workers in the hospital are alerted with a buzzer. A camera placed above the bed also sends images of the baby to a monitor.

At first, hospital officials had been considering using the weight of the baby to set off the sensor, but because of the possibility of the sensor not going off when very small babies were placed on the bed, officials decided to have the sensor react to the opening of the hatch.

As a security measure, once the hatch has been closed, it cannot be opened again. In order to confirm the relationship between the parent and the child if the parent has second thoughts, hospital officials are considering putting a letter addressed to the mother on the bed containing a marking that only the mother and the hospital know.

Dry run for baby drop (The Age, 3/5/07)
The baby drop-off point (Mainichi, 2/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Baby hatch (Wikipedia)
Japanese Catholic News

Priest spearheads Gold Coast mother- baby reunion effort (CathNews, 12/3/07)

3 May 2007

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