In 2002 in the United Kingdom, a White couple known only as Mr. and Mrs. A underwent in vitro fertilization and produced twins. The telling trait in this case that tipped the couple off that there’d been a mix up was that both twins were Black. It turns out that there had been one of two mixups. Either they’d used the egg of a Black couple who were trying to conceive or they’d used her husband’s sperm to fertilize Mrs. A’s egg. Mr. And Mrs. A decided to keep the twins but unfortunately the Black couple who had also been trying to conceive wanted the twins as well.
But law, it appears, won the day. Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 stipulates that whatever woman actually carries a baby to term and delivers it is legally the mother. It doesn’t matter if the the egg that produced that child wasn’t hers.
This actually seems to have happened more than people know but it’s not usually as easy to tell as when White and Black genetic material are mixed together.
This also happened in 1998 when an American woman gave birth to two children through IVF and one child was White while the other was Black. In that case, the Black couple whose genetic material was used sued the woman who had declared she would be keeping both. After a long court battle the Black couple won the custody rights to raise the Black child.
This one seems particularly weird to me. I mean clearly there’d been a screw up so how many babies do you really need?
In 2009, another British couple were informed that their very last viable egg had been used in another woman’s IVF procedure. Even worse, the woman who had undergone the procedure with the couple’s egg later aborted the pregnancy.
In another case, also in Britain, a couple were given their poorest quality eggs during the IVF procedure while the woman’s best quality eggs were given to second, totally different woman. Since the poorer quality eggs were used, the procedure didn’t take and the embryo had to be removed. The couple had no more eggs to use after that.
Where did the second woman’s eggs go? Oh, they went to a third woman. So, nobody got the right eggs.
In a case that just seems gross, one woman gave birth to two babies, one Black and one White, simply because the instrument to administer the sperm hadn’t been properly cleaned and there was still sperm from a previous procedure still inside it.
In 2011, American woman Carolyn Savage underwent an IVF procedure hoping to have a fourth child after having several miscarriages in past attempts. Instead, when she became pregnant from the procedure she was informed that the embryo wasn’t hers.
I have to say though that Carolyn seems like she’s pretty amazing. Knowing that the other couple might not be able to ever carry a baby of their own to term (IVF is in no way foolproof), she carried the baby to term and then gave it over to the genetic parents despite the extreme emotional trauma of doing so.
In reviewing what went wrong at the clinic to cause the mix up it appears that a clerical error was to blame.
In 2014 in Italy, a woman was given another woman’s embryo which resulted in twins. This was only discovered months later when doctors were doing a pre-natal check of the fetus’s DNA and discovered it did not match the woman or her husband.
It was later determined that a second woman with a name only three letters different from the first woman received the first woman’s embryo and that both women had been scheduled for an IVF procedure on the same day in the exact same hospital. The mix up, it seems, was just a product of misreading labels or one of the women responded to a different name being called by the nurse.
The second woman’s procedure resulted in miscarriage but, as in Britain, Italian law states that whoever carries the baby and gives birth to it is legally the mother so she had no legal recourse to claim the first woman’s baby, her genetic child, was legally hers.
This year, in Poland, a couple sought and received an IVF procedure from a public Warsaw hospital after two previous attempts at IVF at a private clinic had met with failure. This third attempt succeeded but, once born, the baby was sickly and received a battery of tests including genetic testing which determined the baby and mother were not a genetic match. The husband’s sperm had been used but the wife’s egg had not.
The couple sued the hospital for the mix up but the court determined her case was without merit. Apparently a baby is a baby to the Polish courts.
In 2009, a Northern Ireland couple gave birth to a biracial baby after a sperm mix up.
In 2004, a California woman won a lawsuit against an IVF clinic that gave her the wrong embryo and then, after discovering the mixup, covered the mistake up until the baby was nearly a year old. She got a million dollars as damages.
In another case, a British couple who are of Mediterranean descent underwent an IVF procedure to have a second child and ended up with a pale skinned, red headed baby who looked more Celtic than should have been possible. Neither the husband nor the wife believed that the boy was theirs however they decided against genetic testing opting instead to decide the boy was their son no matter what and that a genetic test could only harm that relationship.