20 years on, kin of girls switched at birth sue clinic for €12m

LONDON (TIP): Sophie and Manon Serrano might be taken for sisters. The mother, 38, and daughter, 20, are the same height, have long, dark hair and are besties, too. They walked arm in arm into a court in the south of France this week to complain that they should never have known each other. When Manon was 10, she found that her mother was not her mother after all.

Her “real” mother was living 20 miles away with a little girl whose “real” mother was Sophie. In July 1994, a few days after their birth, the two girls were placed in the same cot at a maternity clinic in Cannes. After treatment for jaundice, they were returned to the wrong mothers. The changelings were 10 before the mistake was revealed. The “other” baby and her “parents” were also represented in court in Grasse this week but they requested anonymity. Each young woman is cherished by her accidental foster family.

Neither family wants to swap daughters. They are, though, suing for 12m: 2m for each daughter, the rest for their families. They say the maternity clinic and health staff involved – or at least their insurance companies – should pay exemplary damages for their two decades of emotional suffering. Judgment is expected in February. The story sounds like a film script. And, indeed, one of the most repeated movies on French TV, ‘La Vie est un Longue Fleuve Tranquille’ (Life is a long quiet river), tells an almost identical story. The real story unfolded in the court was further complicated by race.

Manon’s birth parents are from Reunion, a French island. Although Manon looks strikingly like her non-biological mother, she has darker skin. When the mistake was discovered 10 years ago, the two families briefly befriended each another, before drifting apart.

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Volume 10 Issue 41 | New York | Oct 21

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