By Sanette Viljoen
The birth of a child is a wonderful occurrence in every parent’s life. The greatest fear of all parents are that their baby will be switched in the hospital. Following is a discussion of a case where this nightmare occurred.
On 2 August 2010, after their birth in a state hospital in Johannesburg, two babies were switched. In 2013 one of the women sued the father of her children for maintenance and as a result a paternity test was performed. The test indicated that neither the woman or the man was related their child. An investigation was launched and it came to light that two children had been switched in the hospital.
All the parties involved, as well as a panel of experts that included psychologists and psychiatrists, examined the case and agreed that it would be in the best interest of the children to leave them with the parents who had raised them. At this stage the children were five years old.
Professor Skelton of the Centre for Children’s Rights in Pretoria was appointed the children’s curator ad litem. The curator ad litem is the person who represents the children in litigation. She asked the court to order that it would be in the interests of the children to remain with the parents who had reared them and also that the children’s de facto adoption by these parents be ratified. The parents who had raised the children would then indeed become the real parents, with the same rights as the natural parents.
A full bench of judges ratified the de facto adoption of the children in the Supreme Court. The court agreed that the children were attached to the parents who had raised them, especially to the mothers. The advocates in the case put forward that they were not requesting a guideline for every kind of case that would arise in future and that each case should be judged on its own merits. They stated that this was a unique case and that the children’s siblings would not even know that the order was granted. The families would continue as normal. They were already used to and loved one another and this would remain the status quo.
The saying goes, “Blood is thicker than water”; this case proves that this is not always true. The families in this case handled the matter extremely well and nothing would change in their current lives. The tragedy and trauma that accompany such a situation are severe but can however not be repaired. Every case will therefore be judged on its own merits.