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US woman receives $1m compensation for IVF error

9 August 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 270

An American woman who had the wrong embryo transferred to her uterus during IVF treatment has agreed to compensation of $1 million with the doctor who performed the procedure. Susan Buchweitz had the IVF treatment at Fertility Associates of the Bay Area clinic in San Francisco, California in 2000, which resulted in the birth of a baby boy. However, the embryo that was transferred to her was actually that of another couple undergoing treatment at the clinic on the same day.

The doctor who mistakenly implanted the incorrect embryo did not inform Mrs Buchweitz until more than a year after the birth of her son, despite the fact he was aware of his mistake 'within minutes' of the procedure taking place. He had feared that if she learned the truth, she might terminate the pregnancy. She had been contacted first 10 days previously by the Medical Board of California (MBC), who informed her that she may have received the embryo destined for use by the other couple. The MBC began an investigation after it had received an anonymous tip-off about the error.

In August 2002, Mrs Buchweitz began legal action against the clinic, alleging that it had negligently failed to inform her and the other couple involved of the mistake until after the MBC started its investigation of the clinic. Now, the clinician involved, Dr Stephen Katz, has agreed to pay her $1 million to settle her claim out of court, while a claim against the embryologist, Imam El Danasouri, who passed the incorrect embryo to Dr Katz, is still outstanding.

The other couple, who have not been named, have also started a negligence action against the clinic and Dr Katz, as well as the embryologist. They have also alleged fraud. After undergoing her own IVF treatment at the clinic, the woman gave birth to a daughter, who is the biological sister of the son born to Mrs Buchweitz. The couple's embryos were created using donor eggs but were fertilised by the husband's sperm. In 2001, the couple filed for full custody of Mrs Buchweitz's son. However, temporary custody currently remains with Mrs Buchweitz, while the boy's biological father has fortnightly visitation rights. The couple are now applying for joint custody of the boy. The custody hearing is scheduled to take place in October.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Mom awarded $1 million after embryo mix-up
San Francisco Chronicle |  4 August 2004
Mother wins $1m for IVF mix-up but may lose son
The Times |  5 August 2004
Woman awarded $1 million over embryo mix-up
LA Times |  4 August 2004
Wrong embryo leads to suit, custody fight
Kansas City Star |  4 August 2004
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