In 2002, two babies – born within just hours of one another – were accidentally swapped at birth in the Spanish city of Logroño, in the northern La Rioja region. The incident took place in San Millán hospital, which has been closed for years. One of the baby girls, now a 19-year-old woman, has filed a complaint and is seeking more than €3 million in damages from health authorities in La Rioja. DNA tests taken by the unidentified victim showed that her biological parents had raised a daughter who wasn’t theirs, while she grew up in a troubled environment with the wrong family.
The case, revealed by the online regional daily Larioja.com in September, has turned the lives of both families upside down: neither of them knew about what had happened. Now the biological parents of the victim have offered to welcome their biological daughter into their family.
Spanish lawyer Alicia Redondo, who represents the biological parents of the victim, issued a press release on Wednesday expressing her clients’ firm resolve to “take in as an integral part of the family, a daughter who, for unfortunate reasons known by all, has lived apart from us.”
“They [the biological parents] truly long for this, and that’s why they have made it known,” stated the press release. But this move is not intended to affect the non-biological daughter the couple has raised for nearly two decades. “By the same token, they are going to defend the position of the daughter, who, although not biologically, has been part of the family since she was born,” continued the statement, which added that discretion will be key. “They will do what is in their hands to achieve this dual goal, without bringing it to the press.”
The victim’s case involves two legal proceedings: one in the family court and another to decide the amount of compensation to be awarded.
The biological parents truly long for this, and that’s why they have made it knownPress release from Spanish lawyer Alicia Redondo
The family court judge has recognized the link between the claimant and her biological family, acknowledging her parentage on the Civil Registry. This means that both daughters are currently registered as having the same mother and father. The decision was welcomed by Redondo, but the lawyer of the claimant, José Sáez Morga, said that he plans to appeal the ruling on the grounds that it does not change the parentage of the non-biological daughter.
On this point, the family court judge said she does not have the authority to order these changes to the Civil Registry, and that they can only be made by the daughter in question and her biological parents, who are not involved with the process. Neither Redondo nor Sáez Morga responded to calls made by EL PAÍS. The press release from Redondo stated that the biological parents do not want “the drama affecting everyone involved in the process to turn into a media circus.”
The two daughters were born five hours apart at San Millán hospital and taken to the incubator ward because they were underweight. From there they were transferred to cribs before being handed to their mothers. That is where, according to a regional investigation into the case, a hospital worker allegedly made the mistake that led to the swap.
The unidentified victim ended up in a troubled family environment and was raised by her maternal grandmother. Nobody suspected what had happened until 2017, when the woman’s legal guardian – her grandmother – filed a complaint against the father for refusing to pay child support. The man held that he was not the teenager’s father, and a judge ordered a DNA test that proved him right. Further testing showed that the girl had no genetic ties to her supposed mother, either.
Once this was proven, an investigation was opened to try to find out how many children had been born on that same day in San Millán hospital. Initially, 17 children were identified, but this number was gradually narrowed via DNA tests, until the biological family was found. The woman, after receiving confirmation of what happened, filed a suit for €3 million in compensation.
However, authorities in La Rioja said that causation – whether an action has caused a harmful event – cannot be proven, and instead offered the victim €215,000 in compensation. According to the regional authorities, the incident was a “human error,” not a crime. Sáez Morga, however, refutes on the grounds that it constitutes “negligence” under article 220.5 of the Criminal Code, which implies the highest level of compensation.