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. Continue reading
There’s a new case I’d file under “ART mistakes” that is worth a little thought. According to this news story, Alex Waterspiel and Melanie Waters recently filed a lawsuit against Santa Monica Fertility–a clinic run by Dr. John Jain. clinic. (The plaintiffs are represented by Andrew Vorzimer. He’s the man behind The Spin Doctor blog and is involved in the prosecutions arising out of the baby-selling ring that has been much discussed.) The clinic created embryos from eggs and sperm provided by the couple in 2008. Some were transferred several years ago and the couple had a son. Three additional embryos created at that time were frozen for future use.
The couple returned to the clinic in January, 2011, hoping to have another child using those frozen embryos. The clinic couldn’t locate them. Continue reading
Some time ago I wrote about a case where a couple woman named Carolyn Savage ended up pregnant with an embryo created for a different couple, the Morells. This was the result of a mistake by the clinic. Carolyn and her husband, Sean, decided to give the child to the Morells once it was born. The case turned up again on the Today show not that long ago, I think in part because the Savages have written a book.
Thanks to the Spin Doctor blog I came across this essay written by Sean Savage. In it Savage, described as a cradle Catholic, considers and rejects the traditional church teaching on IVF. Continue reading
Here’s one of the stories I have been meaning to comment on. There is coverage from two different sources and you may need both of them to figure out the facts. Here’s what I think the story is:
A couple (husband and wife) in Ireland was using IVF with third-party sperm. They were both white. The selected donor was, I gather, also supposed to be white. The donor actually used was “Caucasian (Cape Coloured).” That’s a label that refers to members of a mixed race community in the Western Cape, South Africa. It seems that a staff member didn’t understand the implications of the label. As a result the children born to the couple had darker skin than the either member of the couple. In addition, the skin tones of the (two?) children differed, each from the other. The parents sued the clinic and the news reported here is that a judge rejected their claim. Continue reading
Posted in parentage
Tagged ART, mistakes
A recent post about an unwitting sperm donor in Delaware garnered many many comments and sparked some interesting discussion. It’s worth reading the post (and perhaps skimming the comments) but here’s the short version of the story: A woman tricked her boyfriend into giving her sperm samples which she used to become pregnant. Under these circumstances, the Delaware Supreme Court held that he was not a legal parent to the resulting child.
Several comments raised questions about gender and possible double standards. Even if we all share a commitment to equality between women and men (an assumption I’m just going to make for the moment) there are difficult questions here. When it comes to reproduction, in some ways men and women are quite similar–each contributes a gamete (men sperm and women eggs).
But in other ways men and women are not at all similar. Continue reading
[It’s the end of the semester here and the rush of obligations has put me a bit behind. I’ll play catch up with a couple of short notes before returning to some more substantial topics.] Here’s a recent story about ART mistakes in the UK. (It’s from the Guardian and there’s more on it from the BBC.)
There are several different ways to think about t. As the headline suggests, the actual number of mistakes nearly doubled between 2007/08 and 2008/09. That’s obviously a dramatic rise. Certainly it suggests we should be concerned. (I’ll return to this in a moment.)
At the same time the actual number of mistakes rose from 182 to 334. That’s 152 more mistakes in 2008/09. I suspect if the headline had said “One Hundred Fifty-Two More Mistakes” it wouldn’t have been nearly so eye-catching. Continue reading
Here’s a thought-provoking piece from The Guardian, UK. It ties back to some of my earlier thoughts about ART mistakes. (The most recent string was occasioned by the “wrong embryo” case featured on the Today show not so long ago.)
As the article notes, while uncertainty about paternity has been around forever, uncertainty about maternity is a new problem. Time was a woman gave birth and we knew she was the mother. Now? She may not be legally recognized as the mother of the child (because in a jurisdiction that enforces surrogacy agreements a woman who gives birth is not necessarily a mother). And she may be legally recognized, but she may not be genetically related to the child. In this brave new world, women as well as men may now need to ask “Is this child mine?”
This question–is the child mine-is a fascinating one. To say that this thing or that thing is mine is to claim possession. Children, of course, are not possessions, nor can they be possessed. As it is used in this article (and in the Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean) the question is really one about genetic lineage–was my genetic material used to create this child Continue reading
One quick note to add to the whole wrong embryo discussion, one that also ties back to an earlier and more general post about ART mistakes. This story reports that a single clinic in the New Orleans area mislabeled dozens of frozen embryos creating the potential for many mix-ups like that experienced by Carolyn and Sean Savage.
Even in the best of all possible worlds, mistakes are bound to happen. And in our particular world, we really don’t know how frequently they occur. That’s one of the reasons why all the legal uncertainty I’ve detailed is so important. While the Savages and the Morells appear to have agreed on an outcome in their case, that won’t always be the case. Litigation is bound to occur. This new story convices me that it may well be sooner rather than later.
Just a quick coda to the recent case popularly referred to as “the wrong embryo case.” (And yes, I’ve used that terminology, too.) Thursday Carolyn Savage gave birth to a baby boy and the boy will be raises by the Morells, who are genetically related to him.
What’s most notable to me is the language the Morells used to describe Carolyn Savage. In earlier discussions here I and some commenters touched on whether she would be considered a surrogate. But the Morells chose to call her a “guardian angel” and the headline writer shortened that to “guardian.”
A long time ago on this blog I struggled with word choice in various surrogacy situations. Nothing like “guardian” ever crossed my mind.
It’s an interesting choice. I think, at least in this context, to be called a guardian is to given a certain amount of honor. It’s a more favorable term than “surrogate.” There is a way in which, particularly under these circumstances, it seems appropriate. But there is a tinge of something there that makes me a trifle uneasy. (Is it from the Handmaid’s Tale?)
I wonder if the term has a future outside of this one instance?
As more details are reported about the recent wrong embryo case I can see even more issues to discuss. (I’ve done several recent posts about it and there’s been some interesting discussion there.)
To recap quickly, Carolyn Savage and her husband Sean had donated their own genetic material to create some embryos in order to use IVF. After the birth of one child, the remaining embryos were frozen. Last winter they went back to the clinic to use some of those frozen embryos in the hopes of having another child.
Carolyn Savage did get pregnant but it turned out that the clinic had mistakenly used embryos of another couple, Paul and Shannon Morell. Now as it happens, this time it seems it will work out as well as it possibly could–the couples are in contact and the Savages have agreed to turn the baby over to the Morells once it is born. The key thing, to me, is that the couples have come to an agreement.
But here’s a thing that leapt out at me in today’s news. Continue reading