Blog Post

Fertility Clinic Mixup Ends in Abortion

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer In another example of the incredible waste of human life that takes place routinely in fertility clinics around the world, a British woman who conceived after receiving another couple’s embryo by mistake decided to abort the child. The aborted baby was the couple’s final embryo and their last hope for a child. After what is being called “an appalling blunder” at a British fertility clinic, a couple’s final embryo was implanted in the wrong patient by an overworked doctor who failed to carry out proper procedures. It was the only remaining embryo of nine the couple had created using IVF (in vitro fertilization). According to a report in London’s MailOnline, the error took place at IVF Wales, a government run fertility clinic overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). An urgent HFEA investigation into the incident found that vital safety checks were not being carried out at the clinic and that overworked staff were being placed under too much pressure to clear a backlog of cases. Apparently the HFEA had previously received two reports of “near-misses” at the same clinic. The couple whose child was lost, known only as Anne and James, had spent years on waiting lists to have fertility treatments after it was discovered that Anne’s fallopian tubes were damaged and she could not conceive. The couple successfully conceived a son, Paul, in April 2003. After Paul's birth, the couple placed their two remaining embryos in storage for the five year period allowed by law. After that time, embryos must be either used, destroyed or donated to science. When the clinic contacted Anne and James in South Wales in 2007 to say that one of the embryos had survived in good condition, the couple decided to take a chance and have a second child. Anne said: "James and I were ecstatic as we drove to the hospital. We were like two schoolkids on a fun ride. No one could imagine how happy we were, planning how we’d celebrate, and what we’d do if it was a boy, or turned out to be a girl." But when they arrived at the clinic on December 5, 2007, to have the embryo implanted, they were told there had been an “accident in the laboratory” and the embryo was no longer viable. The next day they were informed that their embryo had been given to the wrong woman after a mistake by a female trainee embryologist who failed to carry out the correct checks. Anne recalled the moment she heard that the embryo was lost. “In less than ten seconds our wonderful world was shattered when the senior embryologist stood in front of us and said, ‘I’m very sorry to tell you, but there’s been an accident in the lab. Your embryo has been destroyed.’ We were both rooted to our seats. “We were stunned and trembling. We held each other tightly, and sobbed and sobbed. It was like water from a tap. I kept thinking, ‘They’ve killed our baby! Killed our baby!” However, Anne said even their worst fears didn’t prepare them for the devastating news that “our embryo had actually been placed in another woman, and that it had to be taken out and destroyed for ‘medical reasons’. We were shaking with shock and bursting with anger, especially as it was the one thing all IVF patients are told could never happen.” It was an employee at the clinic who realized and caught the mistake but it was too late. Anne and Jame’s child had already been implanted in another woman whose name is being withheld. Because the embryo had just been implanted, the clinic gave the woman the option to abort it by taking the morning-after-pill, which she did. While it is impossible to know precisely how often these “mistakes” occur in clinics around the world, the number of  instances that have been caught in England is on the rise. In 2003-04 there were 15 mistakes for every 10,000 'cycles' of IVF. By 2006-07 there were 40 mistakes for each 10,000 cycles for a total of 173 blunders. The count for 2007-2008, which is due to be announced later this summer, is expected to hit 200. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®