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Mislabeled and unaccounted for embryos prompt lawsuit against US fertility clinic

05 October 2009

By Louise Mallon

Appeared in BioNews 528

A US fertility clinic faces legal action following the results of an independent audit which showed that some embryos stored there had been mislabelled and others were destroyed or unaccounted for. Ochsner Hospital, New Orleans, has admitted mishandling frozen embryos and that some embryos were wrongly destroyed, although deliberate mishandling has been denied. Other embryos are simply 'missing' and the hospital said that its fertility department cannot determine their whereabouts. Fertility centres are meant to implement safeguards protecting against such mishaps, including adequate labelling and bar-coding, but it is not clear what measures were undertaken by Ochsner.

As many as 100 patients may be affected by the clinic's actions. 'We are disappointed in ourselves,' said Dr Partick Quinlan, CEO of Ochsner Health System. 'We will let the legal process run its course, maintaining our focus on our patients, the audit of our IVF center, and the transition of care for patients to alternate facilities,' he added. The lawsuit names Dr Lee-Chuan Kao, Dr Collin Smikle and IVF lab director Marlane Angle, as well as the clinic itself. In the face of the legal challenges, the clinic has suspended its fertility operations and is providing clients with DNA testing free of charge to allow them to confirm their stored embryos are safe.

Elsewhere in the US, a couple is suing a fertility clinic in San Francisco alleging that it destroyed their embryos. Robert and Katie Aschero are bringing an action against the Laurel Fertility Centre claiming that the clinic used the wrong sperm to fertilise Mrs Aschero's eggs. They say that the clinic then made the decision to destroy all thirteen embryos and the Ascheros are alleging that this was in breach of their contract with the clinic. Mrs Aschero says she would have wanted to donate the incorrectly inseminated embryos.

Recently, in Ohio, another fertility clinic came under fire for implanting the wrong embryo in one of its patients. Carolyn Savage was given another couple's embryo but did not discover the mistake until the pregnancy had already commenced. Rather than opting for an abortion, the couple decided to give birth to the child and returned to its biological parents.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Associated Press | 27 September 2009
 
Fertility Clinics in California, Louisiana Face Lawsuits Over Destroying Embryos
Life News | 29 October 2009
 
CBS News | 26 September 2009
 
Second couple files lawsuit against Ochsner
Fox 8 Live | 26 September 2009
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

28 September 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
A woman from the US has given birth to another couple's baby after being implanted with the wrong embryo during her IVF treatment. Caroline Savage and her husband, Sean found out about the mistake when the clinic rang Mr Savage in February. But rather than abort the pregnancy, as the clinic suggested, the couple have elected to give the child back to its biological parents after the birth....

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