Spanish mother reunited with daughter she was told had died at birth

Case is latest in growing scandal over babies allegedly stolen by doctors and sold for adoption over several decades

Giles Tremlett in Madrid, Sunday 20 February 2011
Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco (left) gives a certificate to a family in Madrid in 1942. For many years, parents were awarded for having large families. Baby-stealing is alleged to have begun during Franco’s long rule. Photograph: AP
A Spanish mother has been reunited with her daughter four decades after being told the child had died at birth.

It is the first proven case in a growing scandal over babies stolen by Spanish hospital doctors and sold for adoption.

A DNA test proved the blood tie between the two women after the daughter hired private detectives to trace her biological mother.

“The adoption was legal, with her birth certificate saying she was ‘adopted from an unknown mother’,” Antonio Barroso, the head of an organisation investigating cases of missing babies, said.

The mother was left to mourn her baby after being told she had died at birth in a Barcelona clinic. “The doctors told her that her daughter had died. She even has the death certificate,” Barroso said. “We went to a laboratory and the result left no doubt. It is only now that the girl has seen her own death certificate.”

Barroso said mother and daughter – who have asked not to be named – were reunited in December and the case had since been passed on to the attorney general’s office.

Another spokesman for the group, Juan Luis Moreno, told El Pais newspaper that the mother had always suspected her child had not really died, but hospital authorities in Barcelona had told her they would take charge of burying the baby.

Many of those now seeking lost babies are women who never saw their baby’s corpse because hospitals said they would take charge of burial.

Barroso’s organisation has asked the attorney general to investigate several hundred cases of illegal adoption.

The attorney general agreed to co-ordinate the different investigations that will be carried out by prosecutors at a provincial level.

Barroso said the case opened up the possibility that many children who were adopted in circumstances that may have seemed legal at the time were actually stolen.

These would be added to existing cases where adopted children were apparently registered as the biological children of their adoptive parents.

Barroso helped found the group after discovering that his own parents had paid an intermediary who produced children for adoption from a hospital in Zaragoza.

The cases go back many decades. Although they began during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, they seem to have carried on after his death in 1975. On Tuesday, the Catalan Republican Left party will ask Spain’s parliament to aid those seeking lost children, with the creation of a DNA bank to help them.