Anonymous relinquishment of infants: tackling the problem

Published: 26 November 2009

Baby drops, which have existed in Germany since 1999, and facilities for anonymous birth were established with the aim of preventing the abandonment and killing of infants. Estimates indicate that since these two kinds of facilities were introduced some 500 children have effectively become foundlings with permanently anonymous origins. The existing facilities for anonymous birth raise serious ethical and legal problems, in particular because they violate the right of the children concerned to a knowledge of their origins and to a relationship with their parents. Moreover, experience to date suggests that women at risk of killing or abandoning their newborn babies are not reached by the availability of these facilities. The ethical and legal problems posed by the anonymous relinquishment of infants are discussed in detail in the German Ethics Council's Opinion.

Through its recommendations the German Ethics Council wants to contribute to helping mothers in emergency at the best possible without violating the rights of others – specifically, those of their children.