It's a nightmare that gets worse as more facts unfold, but sufficiently caring relatives can keep it from getting worse still.

Three years ago, two babies went home with the wrong parents from the University of Virginia's hospital. The mix-up might never have been detected except that one mother, trying to prove a boyfriend was the father of the child she was raising, was surprised when a DNA test showed he wasn't. She was more surprised when she discovered through another DNA test that she wasn't the child's biological mother.While she neither wanted to give up the girl she had been raising nor take custody of the child to whom she gave birth, the mother asked the hospital to tell her who was raising the other girl. It refused. USA Today disclosed, however, that the couple raising the second girl had been killed in an auto accident just weeks ago. Several sets of grandparents are now vying for custody of that child, the paper reported.

The hospital's policy is to put identifying bracelets on mother and child immediately after birth. Spokesmen have told reporters that bracelets were put on the baby, although the mother says she did not see this happen and that she did not receive her own bracelets until several hours later. The hospital, which could be facing a major lawsuit, contends it could not have been an accident that caused the switch and announced that police are conducting a criminal investigation. The hospital is already instituting a monitoring system that would also guard against intentional switching, it has been reported.

What is hugely important now, of course, is to act in the best interests of the two children. A psychiatrist quoted in the press says it might be possible for members of both families to join as if members of one family so that the two girls can experience the warmth and attention of their relatives. The worst thing, in his view, would be for the families to beat up on each other in court, for they would simultaneously be beating up on the children. Clearly, he's right on that point. The best way to help the children is for the adults to do the loving thing, not the self-serving thing.