Letter: Woodward trial

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Sir: The tragedy played out as a whodunit in a New York courtroom ("Woodward is found guilty of murder in the second degree", 31 October) represents the ruin of at least six lives: a dead baby whose brief life cannot have been other than miserable, a young woman facing a lifetime as a prisoner in a foreign jail, her parents, and the baby's parents - all ordinary people caught up in a nightmare.

It should make us all reflect on the casual way in which what is the greatest responsibility that most of us are likely to take on - the care of a helpless infant over the most formative months of his life - has become a commodity to be bought and sold to suit the convenience of those concerned: a mother's wish to pursue her career; a young woman's wish to explore the world at the threshold of her adult life.

What the parents needed to do to make the situation work - given their investment in bringing a strange schoolgirl (not much more) over the ocean to take almost complete charge of their household - was to offer support rather than criticism and to cut their losses if it became clear that the arrangement wasn't working.

Our concern for the alleged murderess ought to be at least as great as what we feel for the two nurses similarly accused in Saudi Arabia, given her youth and inexperience; and the Government should exert themselves in this case to ensure that she should be transferred to a British jail to be in contact with her family.

Professor JOHN A DAVIS