Authors: Joseph Werthammer, MD


While in Florence, Italy last spring, I visited the recently renovated Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents). Built in the 15th century, it served as Europe’s first foundling hospital. Funded by the wealthy Guild of Silk Merchants, it served Gettatelli (little throwaways), who had previously been abandoned by the roadside or on doorsteps, the prey of animals and ill-intentioned individuals eager to sell them to brothels or into slavery.1 The first infant was admitted in 1445 and the hospital continued to shelter thousands of babies until 1875. Children were put up for adoption at age 6 years. Those not adopted could live at the foundling hospital until age 18.2

This content is limited to qualifying members.

Existing members, please login first.

If you have an existing account please login now to access this article or view your purchase options.

Purchase only this article ($15)

Create a free account, then purchase this article to download or access it online for 24 hours.

Purchase an SMJ online subscription ($75)

Create a free account, then purchase a subscription to get complete access to all articles for a full year.

Purchase a membership plan (fees vary)

Premium members can access all articles plus recieve many more benefits. View all membership plans and benefit packages.


1. Testa J. The Ospedale degli Innocenti—Europe’s first foundling hospital. In: An Art Lover’s Guide to Florence. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois Press; 2012: 112–118.
2. Sandri L. History, from the hospital’s foundation to 1900. In: The Museo degli Innocenti, Fillipponi S, Mazzocchi E, Sebregondi L, eds. Florence, Italy: Mandragora S.R.L.; 2016: 21.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Opioid overdose. Drug overdose deaths. Updated June 9, 2017. Accessed December 6, 2017.
4. Loudin S, Werthammer J, Prunty L, et al. A management strategy that reduces NICU admissions and decreases charges from the front line of the neonatal abstinence syndrome epidemic. J Perinatol 2017;37:1108–1111.
5. Conradt E, Flannery T, Aschner JL, et al. Prenatal opioid exposure: neurodevelopmental consequences and future research priorities. Pediatrics 2019;144:e20190128.
6. Lee SJ, Bora S, Austin NC, et al. Neurodevelopmental outcomes of children born to opioid-dependent mothers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acad Pediatr 2020;20:308–318.
7. Brown MC, Murray S, Edmonds R, et al. How to Create a Neonatal Withdrawal Center: A New Model of Care for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2015.