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DNA test uncovers IVF sperm mix-up 11 years later

15 November 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1121

A Utah couple is suing their IVF clinic after discovering that sperm from another patient was used to conceive their son.

Donna and Vanner Johnson had their second child, Tim, after IVF treatment at the University of Utah Centre for Reproductive Medicine. Almost 11 years later, at-home DNA testing kits revealed an inconsistency with Tim's DNA results – specifically that he had an 'unknown' biological father. After confirming the accuracy of the result, the Johnsons realised that a mistake must have occurred at the clinic 

The Johnsons expressed how the mistake had been a shock for the family, but Mr Johnson also recalled that when he told his son about what had happened: 'He had reacted how I had hoped... he said "well, you're still my dad" and I said, "That's right, and I will always be your dad," and that was special'.

The family then attempted to find Tim's genetic father. Through another at-home DNA test they identified a close match which led them to Devin McNeil who had been in treatment with his own wife at the same fertility clinic the same year as the Johnsons.

Through conversations, the families were able to establish what must have happened, and Tim has been able to meet his genetic father. 

Both families have initiated legal proceedings against the clinic, which are currently ongoing. They are speaking publicly to call for stronger regulation of IVF clinics. Because they were unaware of the mix-up for 11 years, they are concerned that many other families may be in similar situations but don't know. 

'We want people to know that this can happen... it's unknown in the statistics how many of our cases are out there,' said Vanner Johnson. 'There needs to be more protection of families.' 

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