A month or so ago I wrote about a wrong embryo case in Japan. Here’s news of a case in the same general genre (ART mistakes) from the UK. The story is pretty simple and I’m not sure how much there is to say about it. The reporting seems a tad more interesting.
Three couples were using IVF at the same London hospital. It appears that these were different sex couples and for each couple the plan was to use sperm from the man and an egg from the woman, to create an embryo, and then to transfer the embryo into the woman’s uterus. The problem, for each of these three couples, was that they used the wrong sperm.
Now in this instance the mistake was caught within hours–it’s not clear to me that fertilization had even occurred. This is quite a bit different from the case in Japan where the embryo was transferred and pregnancy resulted. As soon as the mistakes were discovered, the sperm and eggs were discarded.
Two things interest me here. The first is really about the reporting. The headline says “Three Women Have IVF Embryos Destroyed.” Why is it the women who did this and not the couples? What makes these the womens embryos? The first sentence of the article actually doesn’t clarify any of this. It says “[t]hree women had their IVF treatments abandoned….” Weren’t these IVF treatments for the couples? (I considered the possibility that these were single women until reading further in the article. It’s quite apparent they are not.)
I just wonder if this is a sort of unthinking carryover from the gendered nature of pregnancy/childbearing. Perhaps it’s right to say that women get treated via IVF, since the direct impact on the woman’s body is greater? But I’m really not clear why they were the women’s embryos.
Beyond that, this is yet another opportunity to think about mistakes in ART. As the article notes, some mistakes are revealed because a donor of a different race is accidentally used. But presumably many mistakes go undetected. If you don’t know, if you never have any reason to know, has any harm been done? If the genetic coding of a person you think is your son/daughter actually doesn’t match yours, but if you do not know that, does it matter? Would it be better if you knew? Isn’t it just possible that everyone is happier not knowing?
Perhaps this is akin to the question about trees falling in forests with no one around?