I shook my head in sad recognition as I read the story about a newborn baby found in a trash can at a Filipino airport. The baby was found by the cleaning crew inside the toilet trash bin of a passenger jet that had landed from Bahrain. Gratefully, an airport physician examined the baby, rushed him to the hospital where he is reportedly doing well. Baby George Francis (a name given to him by the airline staff) was lucky. Many babies are not.
The article invoked an indelible memory of a notorious night on-call during my first year of residency training. I was called to the ER to evaluate a woman who had significant vaginal bleeding. Upon my arrival, I encountered a plain-looking woman in her late thirties accompanied by a man who appeared to be the same age. She was a minister’s daughter who still lived with her parents and appeared extremely nervous. When the nurse placed her feet in stirrups, I immediately knew why she was bleeding. “Where’s the baby?” I asked. Both the patient and her male friend looked at me as though I had burst into flames. “Baby? What baby?” they asked in unison. My patience was running thin. “Look,” I snapped and held up the placenta with a pair of forceps. “This is an umbilical cord attached to a placenta. WHERE IS THE BABY?” They continued to feign ignorance reminding me of the characters from the old movie, Arsenic and Old Lace. I stabilized the patient and then told the nurse to call Security.
The police went to the patient’s home and discovered a baby in the trashcan. Her father almost had a cardiac arrest and her pious mother was in profound denial. Her middle-aged daughter had cohabitated with a man. The baby was a stillborn that had probably never received prenatal care. The Safe Haven Law for Abandoned Newborns didn’t exist in 1987, but it certainly does now. A baby up to 3-days old can be dropped off at a fire station or a hospital instead of a trash can. No questions asked.
Baby George Francis was preordained to live. A trashcan can never change that.
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