Attorney: IVF Mix-up Can Lead to Lawsuits


How to Avoid an IVF Mix-Ups

Negligence is commonly the reason for most IVF mix-ups. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: you get home from the hospital after a long, hard delivery, only to slowly realize that the baby in your arms is not yours. Plus, emotions are likely amplified as in vitro fertilization, or IVF, is often a long process that can feel both emotionally and physically painful. It’s called an IVF mix-up, and it could happen to you.

This is exactly what happened to Alexander and Daphna Cardinale of California, who found out that Daphna was implanted with a different couple’s embryo and gave birth to a child who wasn’t genetically related to them at all. They made the discovery two months after the baby’s birth, via DNA testing. Another couple was implanted with the Cardinale’s embryo, and they eventually were able to return the children to the correct parents. However, not before both families experienced immeasurable grief.

Unfortunately, IVF mix-ups are a real possibility for the 150,000 IVF cycles that happen in the U.S. each year. Read on to find out how it happens and how you can avoid it.

Can you Sue Over an IVF Mix-Ups?

A couple going through IVF provides their doctor with sperm and eggs, which the doctors then combine to create an embryo. Throughout the process, it is the physician and the embryologist’s responsibility to properly handle these specimens. Generally speaking, most IVF mix-ups happen when a clinic doesn’t have the correct protocols in place. At any given time, technicians and doctors should have just one set of genetic material out in the lab. There should always be a second person overseeing any work on the material to double-check that everything is done correctly.

Despite several IVF mix-ups that have made recent news headlines, there’s no authority or agency to track the embryo mix-ups or freezer meltdowns that can happen in reproductive medicine. Instead, states oversee medical licensing and discipline physician misconduct. Federal government agencies regulate donor tissues within clinics. With no singular agency overseeing the whole process, mistakes are more likely to occur. Additionally, other areas of medicine closely regulate “never events,” which are big, avoidable mistakes. Reproductive medicine doesn’t have any such regulations.

Prevent IVF Mix-Ups Lawsuit with Diligence

Once you entrust a clinic with your genetic material, you give them total control. However, there are steps you can take prior to that moment to ensure you avoid any IVF mix-ups and other IVF mistakes.

1.     Choose a SART or ASRM Clinic

Although there are no official agencies regulating the reproductive field, there are self-regulation groups. These professional groups include the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). SART and ASRM clinics have agreed to follow the guidelines set forth by these organizations, which ensures that they adhere to the highest standards. Clinics can also lose their SART or ASRM status, which is a clear sign that they should be avoided.

2.     Look for FDA Violations

When choosing a clinic, research is key. Look up the clinic you’re interested in working with and check to see if they have any recorded FDA violations. These are red flags and you should go elsewhere. This is perhaps one of the most important steps you can do to prevent IVF mistakes.

3.     Outdated Technology

It used to be commonplace for a doctor to implant someone with two to three embryos. This was because the technology didn’t allow for the doctor to assess the embryo’s chromosomes, so implanting more than one gave a higher likelihood that at least one baby would be healthy. However, newer technology allows doctors to review chromosomes so that there is no need to implant multiple embryos. If the clinic you’re looking into has a large number of twins and triplets, it’s a sign that they aren’t using the newest technology and may not have the best practices in place for their patients.

4.     Ask Questions

Ask questions to avoid IVF mistakes. Beyond researching at home, your doctor should expect you to ask questions. They should be able to explain how they avoid mix-ups in detail. You can even ask if they’ve had mix-ups in the past. If you’re struggling to find information as to their SART or ASRM status, or whether they have any FDA violtions, you can ask your doctor directly.

Questions to Ask Your Provider to Avoid an IVF Mix-Up

Not sure what to ask your doctor? Consider bringing along the following questions.

  • What measures do you have in place at the time of embryo retrieval? Your doctor may know you well, but the nurses, embryologists, and anesthesiologists will likely only meet you when it’s time to retrieve your eggs. A good clinic will have checks in place to ensure that your eggs are properly labeled when retrieved.
  • How many cases do your embryologists work on at a time? Some clinics only allow their embryologists to work on one case at a time, from when the eggs are removed to when they are placed in culture.
  • How do you ensure that you add the correct sperm to the correct eggs? Clinics should have some policies in place to ensure that the correct combination is made. Some can even tell you how quickly they add the sperm to the eggs, which should happen the same day.
  • How many sets of genetic material do your embryologists work on at once? The answer should be just one.
  • Do you require that your embryologists work in teams? Embryologists who work in pairs ensure that there’s a second set of eyes on your embryos.
  • How do you label the embryo once it goes into the incubator? The clinic should have labels on the outside of the incubator that clearly denotes your name and the exact location of your specimen inside.
  • How do you label the embryos? The doctor should be able to tell you what identifying information is attached to your embryos.
  • What measures do you have in place to ensure that the freezer that you store embryos in remains frozen? In 2018, a liquid nitrogen storage tank heated up and jeopardized thousands of frozen eggs and embryos. A good clinic will have safety measures in place.
  • Do you have a physical manual of your policies? How often is it inspected? Clinics should have a written manual with their policies and should evaluate them at least once every two years. Some also undergo inspection by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

Speak to an Attorney About Your IVF Mix-up Case

IVF mix-ups are an unfortunate reality. However, doing your due diligence and asking the right questions will give you the best chance of avoiding this issue. If you were injured due to a mix-up or other error, you may be able to file an IVF lawsuit. Contact our attorneys to learn more.

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