Anti-abduction service draws fire

By Zhan Lisheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-12 06:58

FOSHAN, Guangdong: This city's Shunde No 1 People's Hospital has been charging a daily fee of 40 yuan to protect newborn babies from kidnappers, stirring up heated debate among women in the hospital's maternity ward.

The hospital was the first in the country to introduce this system from overseas in an attempt to reverse a recent increase in infant abductions.

While many new mothers have welcomed the system, saying it would cut down on abductions and mismatching, many others have argued against it.

Opponents said the hospital is obliged to look after their babies and should not be levying any additional fees for such services.

"The system has reassured me that my baby is safe. I think the paid service is worthwhile," said Zhang, a new mother at the hospital.

However, another new mother, who identified herself only as Mrs Lu, said the service should be included in the hospital's nursery package.

The system in question is called the "Hugs" infant protection system. It was introduced from Canada.

Qin Suijun, chief of the hospital's security department, said the hospital had been authorized by the local government to levy the charge, and that the system would not only combat infant abductions, but also help hospital officials avoid giving the babies to the wrong parents.

He said the system relies on radio-frequency identification technology consisting of monitoring software and an ankle bracelet that contains a tiny radio transmitter.

He said the system would prevent infants from being removed from a health-care facility without authorization and from being given to the wrong parents.

He said the service was worthwhile since infants had been abducted from other hospitals in the district, causing trouble for both the families and the hospitals.

"It is not easy to spot kidnappers, and there are no guarantees that an infant won't be mismatched at a hospital," said Liang Haiquan, a police officer in the district, adding that more hospitals should adopt the infant-protection system.

Liang said one kidnapper had disguised herself as a doctor and stole a two-day-old baby from a hospital in the district in 2004. The parents sued the hospital, demanding 700,000 yuan ($92,100) in compensation. A similar case happened in East China's Anhui Province, where medical workers were found stealing babies.

"Some parents even stole their own children to blackmail the hospitals after learning that their newborn babies were unhealthy or not of the sex they expected," the police officer said.

(China Daily 06/12/2007 page5)

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours