Multiple couples sue CHA Fertility Center over embryo mix-up
This week, two couple filed separate lawsuits against the same fertility clinic in California after a devastating mix-up. One mother gave birth to children who turned out not to be her own, and another would find out that her son had been born to someone else.
Here’s what happened…
A New York couple had been trying for more than six years to have children of their own. They underwent multiple cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a costly process by which embryos are created using the mother’s egg and father’s sperm, stored and preserved, and then are implanted in the womb, with the hope of a successful pregnancy. After multiple failed cycles, the couple was informed that they finally succeeded, and were expecting twin girls (the embryos they created had been female). The first signs of trouble came when ultrasounds showed two male babies, but the doctor assured them that sonograms can be wrong. Nine months later, their joy and anticipation would turn to devastation: the woman gave birth to two boys, neither of which was biologically related to her, her husband, or each other. They relinquished custody of the newborns.
Thousands of miles away, another couple was to be informed that their son had just been born to a stranger. Their embryos had been given to the wrong couple.
The other baby belongs to yet a third, unnamed couple.
How is any of this possible? According to the lawsuits, the fertility clinic in question that had been storing the embryos for implant made a critical error in transfer and implanted their patient with the wrong embryos. CHA Fertility Center had been described as one of the best treatment facilities available – the “mecca” of IVF and fertility care.
This unimaginable mix-up leaves both couples not only emotionally devastated but also left with a lingering fear about what they still don’t know: Could more of their embryos be out there, implanted in a stranger? How can patients know for certain that the child they are carrying is theirs?
Fertility center negligence
In vitro fertilization is a physically, emotionally, and financially demanding process. In essence, these couple give everything they have in hope of becoming parents. It is a grave responsibility these clinics are charged with, and the results of a mistake like the one that occurred at CHA are heartbreaking. What’s more, this is just one kind of error that can occur. Last year, a different fertility clinic was responsible for the loss of thousands of preserved embryos in its care. In one of the more chilling cases, a fertility center doctor deceptively used his own sperm to impregnate his patients instead of using anonymous donors.
To exacerbate matters, there is little federal regulation of this unique field of medicine and no official reporting system for reproductive treatment errors. As a result, it’s entirely possible that they go unreported.
As this week’s events make all too clear, couples and individuals who suffer because of fertility negligence deserve to be heard, and those at fault deserve to be held rightfully accountable. Shining a light on these events cannot undo what has been done, but it can help make sure other hopeful parents don’t suffer in the same way.
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