National / Social Issues

11 babies left in hospital's 'baby hatch' in fiscal 2014

Kyodo

The number of unwanted babies dropped off at Jikei Hospital’s so-called baby hatch reached 11 in fiscal 2014 — topping 10 for the first time in four years, the city of Kumamoto has said.

The hospital, in Kumamoto Prefecture, opened the Konotori no Yurikago (Stork Cradle) in 2007 as a safe option for parents who feel they can’t raise their children.

The hatch has been criticized as a way to encourage the abandonment of babies, but supporters see it as a way to reduce abortion rates and save the lives of infants who cannot be cared for.

The city said Wednesday a total of 112 babies had been left at the facility over the eight years to March 31. It remains the nation’s only post of its kind.

Up until fiscal 2010, the hospital had received between 15 to 25 infants a year, but the figure decreased in recent years.

The hospital said it had installed a surveillance camera following an incident last October where a hospital employee found the body of a deceased infant in the drop box.

The hospital stressed, however, that it did not intend to identify the baby’s parents but use the camera to help police identify suspects in cases where a criminal investigation may be warranted.

It said the footage captured on the camera would be automatically deleted after seven days. If the hospital wanted to view the footage, it would require board approval, following a request from police.

“If no one leaves babies in the year from now (because of the camera) we may take it away,” said Takeshi Hasuda, who heads the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department.

The city’s data show that 10 of the 11 babies — six boys and five girls — dropped off in the past year were less than a month old.

For the first time, the hospital received a low weight infant weighing less than 1,500 grams, which is considered to be of critical condition. Five other babies needed medical attention, it said.

The hospital added that most of the babies had been left as a result of the parents’ desperate economic situation or by single mothers.

In eight cases, the hospital was informed of the address of the child’s parents or grandparents with one address notifying the infant’s family in the Tohoku region.

None of the babies found in the hatch had suffered from physical abuse.