A couple of posts back I wrote (hardly for the first time) about the sorts of problems posed by mistakes made during IVF. The mistakes I’m thinking of typically involve either lost or switched gametes or embryos. I’m inclined to think that mistakes are inevitable, and the problems posed when they occur can be particularly difficult.
Anyway, a while back I wrote about one particular mistakes case involving Carolyn and Sean Savage. The Savages had been undergoing IVF and a clinic mistakenly transferred the wrong embryo into Carolyn’s uterus–and embryo created with genetic material from a different couple, Paul and Shannon Morrell. The error was discovered much earlier than whatever error occurred in the case I wrote about so recently and so a different sort of remedy was possible. Carolyn Savage agreed to function as a surrogate–to carry the pregnancy to term and to give the child to the Morrells. (All this is in my past posts and the news stories they link to.)
Now comes the end of the story. Ironically, Carolyn Savage could not maintain another pregnancy, so she and Sean used a surrogate. Twin girls were born on August 11.
What’s the difference between the Savages case and the recent story involving Alex Waterspiel and Melanie Waters, (assuming that in the latter case the embryos were actually wrongly transferred rather than simply lost)? The difference is the timing of the discovery of the error. But as so often is the case when children are involved, timing is crucial.
When the error was discovered in the case of Carolyn Savage, it was very early on–within weeks of the embryo transfer. I do not mean to suggest that Savage’s decision to become a surrogate (or at least to act like a surrogate) was an easy one, but consider the contrast to the decision that might be faced in the Waterspiel/Waters case. In that case, the mistake could have occurred as much as three years ago, which means there could be a toddler involved. Someone (singular or plural) has been raising that child, thinking of the child as their child. Giving a child up at that point is a vastly different thing than deciding to become a surrogate–both for the adults and for the child. From my point of view it’s a quite unsatisfactory remedy.