Czech Police Investigate Swapped Babies
Wednesday, October 10, 2007; 10:28 AM
PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Nikola and Veronika both were born last Dec. 9, delighting two sets of parents who brought home what they thought were their bundles of joy.
Now, 10 months later, Czech authorities are investigating what officials at a hospital in the country's southeast say was a frightful mistake: The girls _ somehow swapped at birth _ wound up with the wrong families.
As police looked into the case at the clinic in the town of Trebic, 100 miles southeast of Prague, the infants' parents were meeting in a secret location to discuss how best to return the babies to their rightful homes, officials said Wednesday.
Police spokeswoman Marcela Lavicka said the investigation was in its early stages and that it was not yet clear when investigators would begin questioning the hospital's staff.
The hospital said in a statement Wednesday that it was cooperating with police and that it was about to wrap up its own internal investigation into what it called a "regrettable case."
Hospital director Petr Mayer apologized to the parents and offered them help in solving the problem, the clinic said.
The apparently accidental mix-up came to light earlier this year when Nikola's father, Libor Broza, became suspicious because his daughter did not resemble him. He had his DNA tested. The results: He could not have fathered Nikola.
Broza's partner, Jaroslava Trojanova, had a maternity test, and her results also were negative.
Lavicka said the other couple, Jan Cermak and his wife, Jaroslava Cermakova, also had paternity and maternity tests done, and the results should be known next week.
Both couples, who met last week for the first time and were introduced to each other's girls, have agreed to swap their daughters before the end of the year.
"Our daughter looks so much like me that I don't need any DNA tests to know she is mine," Broza told Czech radio.
"Of course, we are happy, but on the other hand, we also feel terrible," Trojanova said.
Health Minister Tomas Julinek said he could not rule out the possibility that similar mix-ups have happened in the past. In an interview with Impuls radio this week, he said Nikola's and Veronika's parents should be compensated.
The couples reportedly plan to take legal action against the hospital. Broza and Trojanova plan to seek $510,000 in damages, reports said.
On Wednesday, the couples met to swap stories about the girls, including what they like to eat, what illnesses they've had and what their favorite fairytales are.
"The main reason for the meeting is to get the families ready for the exchange and learn more about each other," psychologist Olga Hinkova, who is helping the couples through the transition, was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily.
"It will be more difficult for the mothers to cope with it than for the children," she said.
(SUBS graf 14 to correct to legal action against hospital.)