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Suffolk: ‘Harrowing’ Eastenders storyline shocks baby death mother

PUBLISHED: 09:35 06 January 2011

Charlotte Jenkins

Charlotte Jenkins

Archant

A MOTHER whose baby died when he was just two hours old has spoken of her shock at a “harrowing” soap storyline about sudden infant death syndrome.

Charlotte Jenkins, 42, from Laxfield, near Framlingham, has spoken out against the current EastEnders plot involving bereaved Ronnie Branning swapping her dead baby for another.

Mrs Jenkins, whose son Jack died shortly after birth in December 1994, said the attention the controversial topic had been getting on the internet and in the national newspapers had brought back very difficult memories for her.

She said: “They have done it to make it sensationalist. I found it too distressing to watch. People have said to me that it was most unrealistic. It took me a long time to get over losing Jack, who was born prematurely and would have been 16 last month.

“It’s not the losing of the child, it’s the swapping that has got people upset. It’s been handled all wrong. It’s not entertainment for those who have gone through it.”

Mrs Jenkins said she had been talking to friends on the Mumsnet website and they had all been shocked by the way the story had been portrayed.

She added: “They handled AIDS and cancer and other issues with great sensitivity, but I just feel it’s a step too far and the swapping was not a necessary part.

“It’s portraying people (who have lost babies) as unhinged. We’re not unhinged, we don’t want to go and take somebody else’s baby, we want our own babies back.”

In the show Ronnie, played by Samantha Womack, swapped her dead son for Kat and Alfie Moon’s (played by Jessie Wallace and Shane Ritchie) baby on New Year’s Eve and the producers have defended the “challenging” storyline, which has attracted more than 3,400 complaints.

Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said: “We appreciate this is a challenging storyline and have taken care to ensure viewers were aware of the content in advance of transmission.

“We also provided actionline numbers at the end of each show, offering advice and support to those affected by the issues.”

The soap has worked with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) to ensure the issue is portrayed accurately and EastEnders chiefs toned down some scenes from its New Year’s Eve episode after a preview screening.

A spokesman for FSID said the charity had been consulted but had not been aware of the “baby swap” element.

The spokesman said: “FSID has received several complaints and comments from bereaved parents about the ‘baby-swap’ story on EastEnders.

“We are very sorry to know of the very natural distress caused by this plot line but would like to stress that our involvement was limited to advice on SIDS risk factors, bereavement and the involvement of health professionals and the police.

“We primarily advised on the likely emotional reaction of the Moon family to the sudden and unexpected death of their baby.

“FSID had no involvement in the planning or adoption of the ‘baby-swap’ plotline. The behaviour and actions of Ronnie Mitchell are in no way ‘endorsed’ by FSID as a typical, or even likely, reaction of a bereaved parent.”

Editorial comment – Page 24

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