The foundling hospi­tal

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health History -

While a number of fac­tors led to the set­ting up of a Dublin foundling hospi­tal, the writ­ings of Jonathan Swift played a key part. He cam­paigned for ac­tion to ad­dress the ap­palling liv­ing con­di­tions of the poor.

Swift’s satir­i­cal es­say A Mod­est Pro­posal, pub­lished in 1729, was fol­lowed by the set­ting up of a House of Lords com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the prob­lem of aban­doned in­fants.

The Ir­ish par­lia­ment passed leg­is­la­tion oblig­ing the gov­er­nors of the work­house to ad­mit all aban­doned Dublin children.

Foundling hospi­tals across Europe had an in­fant mor­tal­ity rate about twice as high as children cared for at home. At the Dublin Foundling Hospi­tal be­tween 1750 and 1760, some 3,797 in­fants died out of a to­tal of 7,781 ad­mit­ted.

In 1829, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee de­creed there were suf­fi­cient al­ter­na­tive char­i­ta­ble fa­cil­i­ties for aban­doned children and the Dublin Foundling Hospi­tal closed to new ad­mis­sions in 1831.

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