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Embryo mix-up mother will give child to biological parents

28 September 2009
Appeared in BioNews 527

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 elected to go through with it and then to give the child 'back' to its biological parents after the birth.

Mrs Savage, who is 40 and has three other children, feels that she and her husband came to the right decision about the pregnancy. Speaking on the US television network NBC's 'Today Programme', she said before the birth that 'the hardest part is going to be the delivery. We've been rooting for the baby the whole time. We moved from a position of shock to a realisation that this was actually going to happen. We needed to put the needs of the pregnancy and the child first'. She added: 'It's just been difficult, but we feel we made the right decisions on how to handle it.'

In a statement issued last week, Robert Rebar, Executive Director of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), called for additional measures to prevent future mistakes. He said: 'The incidents reported this week make it clear that there is still work to do. As the leaders in reproductive medicine, we will redouble our efforts to develop systems that will assure our patients and the public that these kinds of mistakes will not happen.

He added: 'The time has come for policy makers to sit down with the leading experts in the field to explore ways we can codify our standards to give them additional regulatory teeth. We will lead an effort involving our members, representatives of patient groups, policy makers and other stakeholders to work together to come up with solutions.'

Though the Savages have three children already, for religious reasons they were keen to give all the embryos they created for the purpose of their IVF treatment 'a chance at life'. However, due to pregnancy complications and her age, the fertility clinic has advised Mrs Savage that it would be too risky to try for another pregnancy through IVF.

The child's biological parents, Paul and Shannon Morell from Detroit, have already met with the Savages and taken steps to ensure they are recognised as the legal parents of the child. Mrs Savage said that she never considered the child her own: 'This was someone else's child. We didn't know who it was. We didn't know if they didn't have children or if this was their last chance for a child, we knew if our child was out there, we'd go to the ends of the earth to get our child back.'

Earlier this year, news broke that an embryo belonging to a UK couple being treated at a Cardiff fertility clinic was accidentally implanted into the wrong woman. In this case the biological parents were not told until after the pregnant woman had elected to take the morning after pill.

Embryo mix-up woman gives birth
BBC News |  26 September 2009
First person: Embryo mix-ups leads to wrong child
Associated Press |  24 September 2009
In vitro fertilization risks in the spotlight as Carolyn Savage speaks out on embryo mixup
New York Daily News |  23 September 2009
Last Name May Have Caused Embryo Mistake: Savages Recount Emotional Roller Coaster
American Chronical |  23 September 2009
Pregnant mother, implanted with wrong embryo, to give up baby after IVF blunder
The Daily Telegraph |  22 September 2009
US woman pregnant with another couple's child after clinic error
The Guardian |  23 September 2009
'Wrong embryo' mother to give up baby boy to his biological parents after mix-up
The Daily Telegraph |  26 September 2009
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A fertility clinic in Hong Kong has admitted to implanting two embryos into the wrong woman earlier this month. The embryos, belonging to another patient at the clinic, were removed and discarded by the clinic upon discovery of the mistake. The women affected are said to have received counseling and compensation from the clinic....
20 September 2010 - by Ben Jones 
A Canadian doctor is being sued by two of his patients who discovered their children were not genetically related to the believed donors, reports the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail...
2 November 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
A mistake at one of London's top fertility clinics has resulted in more than 11 women being treated with genetically abnormal sperm, according to an exposé published in the Independent on Sunday newspaper this week. If passed on, the chromosomal abnormality carried by the sperm could have triggered miscarriages or resulted in the birth of a child with serious chromosomal disorder....
5 October 2009 - by Louise Mallon 
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 whereabou...
15 June 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
An embryo belonging to a couple being treated at a Cardiff fertility clinic was accidentally implanted into the wrong woman and subsequently destroyed. The prospects of Deborah, who is 40, having another child with her partner Paul, 38, are slim and both are said to be devastated that their last hope of conceiving a sibling for their six-year-old son has been lost....
12 May 2009 - by BioNews 
Last week BioNews reported on a letter published in The Sunday Times newspaper in which Brian Toft, professor of patient safety at Coventry University, declared the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the UK Government's fertility watchdog - 'unfit for purpose'. BioNews would like to clarify that Professor Toft is not...
12 May 2009 - by BioNews 
Last week BioNews reported that, speaking to The Sunday Times, an HFEA spokesperson said that mistakes due to human error only occur in 0.5 per cent of cases. BioNews has since been informed by the HFEA that this figure was misquoted in the newspaper, and that the true figure for...
5 May 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Following an inquiry into a series of IVF mix-ups at a top London hospital, an official has declared the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) - the UK Government's fertility watchdog - 'unfit for purpose' in a letter to chief medical offer Sir Liam Donaldson, according to a report...
3 May 2009 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Three couples undergoing IVF treatment at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London, have had to have their embryos destroyed after the clinic used sperm from the wrong donor to fertilise the eggs. A spokesman for the clinic said that 'We identified potential problems with the eggs and...
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