Spanish woman raised by wrong family seeks damages for baby swap mistake

A woman is seeking €3m (£2.5m) in damages from a regional health department in northern Spagna after it emerged that she and another baby were accidentally handed to the wrong families hours after they were born almost two decades ago.

The maternity ward mix-up, which health authorities in the La Rioja region have attributed to “human error”, came to light by chance after a DNA test.

The babies were born five hours apart in a hospital in La Rioja in 2002, and were both placed in incubators because they were underweight. One went to live with parents, while the other was raised by a woman she believed to be her grandmother. Neither has been identified in the ongoing legal proceedings.

The switch, which was reported by the La Rioja newspaper, was discovered four years ago after the grandmother of the latter girl complained that her father was not fulfilling his responsibilities. The complaint involved a DNA test, which established that he was not the girl’s father. A subsequent DNA test then showed she was not the child of the woman she thought was her mother.

The discovery prompted an investigation by the regional health authority, which concluded there was only one other baby with whom she could have been accidentally switched.

“It was a human error and we haven’t been able to find out who was to blame,” Sara Alba, La Rioja’s regional health chief, told a news conference on Tuesday.

“The systems back then were different and weren’t as computerised as they are now,” Alba said, offering assurances it could not happen again.

La Rioja newspaper reported that the other woman who was handed to the wrong parents had been informed of the mistake.

The complainant’s lawyer, José Sáez Morga, said his 19-year-old client was seeking the €3m in damages because she had suffered “negligence so serious that it speaks for itself”.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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