A couple filed a lawsuit after giving birth to someone else’ children, claiming the clinic had an “incomprehensible” IVF mix-up.
More than one in 10 women seek fertility-related services from almost 500 clinics in the U.S.
Women seek a variety of treatments, from drug therapy to in vitro fertilization. The procedures are performed in a doctor’s office, a fertility clinic or a hospital, giving would-be parents a feeling of safety and security.
Certainly no parent would expect what Ohio dad Joseph Cartellone alleges. He said during a Wednesday news conference that his 24-year-old daughter, Rebecca, thought it would be fun during Christmas 2018 if the whole family took DNA tests. Instead, the family learned, she couldn’t genetically be his child. The Cartellone family is suing Cincinnati’s Institute of Reproductive Health, alleging that a stranger’s sperm was used. They’ve it narrowed to one of five medical professionals, including a doctor.
“It’s hard to explain the shock and agony when you find out that someone you love and care for, your own daughter, is not genetically related to you,” Cartellone said. “I never would have imagined a Christmas gift, a home DNA kit, would unveil this kind of abuse of our trust.”
3 shocking fertility clinic mix-ups
The fertility services world has roiled with several shocking claims in a little more than a month. The Cartellone family lawsuit is the third.
On July 1, a New York couple known only by their initials filed a federal suit in the Eastern District of New York accusing the CHA Fertility Center in Los Angeles of medical malpractice, negligence, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The couple gave birth to twins who were not a DNA match to the parents or each other.
On July 10, California couple Anni and Ashot Manukyan filed their own suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing the same accusations.They went to court to gain custody of their infant son, one of the twins born to the New York mother.
The other twin born to the New York IVF mom also was reunited with his biological mother, who wished to remain anonymous, her lawyer said.
The Cartellone lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, asks for compensatory damages with interest and to provide the family with the identity and medical history of Rebecca’s biological father.
The Cartellones underwent fertility treatment in 1994, according to the lawsuit. A paternity test confirmed the finding of the DNA test.
The law firm of Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane represents both the Cartellone and Manukyan families.
The Institute for Reproductive Health and Ovation Fertility did not respond to requests for comment. The Christ Hospital Health Network said it would not comment on pending litigation.
‘Wild West’ situation
The law firm, which specializes in fertility issues, released a report stating a lack of regulation among fertility centers has led to a “Wild West” situation.
“As consumers, we think of fertility clinics as highly professional organizations governed by strict rules and staffed by caring experts, and some of them are indeed well-meaning and well-run,” said Cartellone family attorney Adam Wolf. “But the truth is that some of them are simply businesspeople making billions of dollars in profits. The bottom line is that self-regulation for fertility centers is just not working.”
The report called for tighter U.S. regulations and pointed to the United Kingdom as an example.
The report touted the U.K’s creation of a national agency that “oversees nearly every aspect of 69,000 fertility procedures a year at 131 licensed clinics.” The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, created in 1990, is in charge of licensing facilities, conducting clinic inspections every two years, recommending changes, revoking licenses and setting standards for patient care.
No single U.S. agency governs fertility clinics. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the use of drugs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires certain reporting practices and each state oversees the medical licensing of doctors affiliated with clinics.
Cartellone said his daughter regrets and feels guilty for buying the DNA kit, and she’s struggling with her identity. He hurts for her, but says this is bigger than him. He wants answers, and he wants change.
“Our story is just one example of the many abuses in fertility clinic history,” he said. “We keep asking, ‘Why hasn’t somebody done something about this?’ We are talking about the creation of life. There needs to be stronger oversight and controls. These clinics need to be held accountable. They need to suffer real consequences for their actions. We need some common-sense regulation.”
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