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A window of sadness

Desperate mothers can now leave their babies at a "baby window" in Einsiedeln.

Switzerland opened its first centre for abandoned babies on Wednesday in the abbey town of Einsiedeln, canton Schwyz. For the first time, mothers who cannot or do not want to keep their baby will be able to travel to the local hospital and leave their infant at a so-called "baby window".

The centre hopes to help mothers who find themselves in a desperate situation, said the pro-life Swiss aid organisation, For the Mother and Child.

The organisation worked alongside the Einsiedeln hospital to set up the crisis centre where alarm bells ring whenever a child is deposited in a special container.

The mother is able to leave her unwanted child at a window. An automatic alarm is set off alerting hospital personnel. The mother has six weeks to claim the baby if she changes her mind.

The organisation feels that depositing a baby at the centre will not create any legal problems. According to the law, the association says no one will be held responsible for abandoning their baby if keeping it endangers the infant’s life.

However, Thomas Sutter, a lawyer at the justice ministry, points out that leaving a baby at a hospital without declaring its identity is illegal.

Safeguarding the mother’s anonymity also poses ethical problems, said Rebecca Iseli, a specialist in ethical studies at the University of Bern’s Institute of Philosophy.

Iseli is advocating a system where both the baby and its mother are cared for.

“Baby windows” already exist in other countries. The first one in Germany opened 18 months ago in Hamburg, and eight infants have so far been handed in. There are currently 21 such centres in Germany.

Such centres also exist in a number of other European countries, the United States and South Africa.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR