Gift of DNA Test Reveals Fertility Clinic Swapped Sperm, Lawsuit Says

Published by The Daily Beast

BY Shira Feder

Published 08.07.19 11:07AM ET | Updated 08.07.19 2:17PM ET

The case and other screwups have sparked a call for beefing up regulations in the assisted-reproduction industry.

A holiday gift of DNA test kits led to the shocking discovery that a fertility clinic gave a couple the wrong sperm 25 years ago, according to a new lawsuit.

The genetic switcheroo, the latest in a series of IVF screwups, has sparked a call for an overhaul of regulations in the $2 billion assisted reproduction industry.

“Never in my worst nightmare did I think that the Christmas gift of DNA testing for my family would unveil this kind of abuse of our trust by the very professionals from whom we sought help,” said Joseph Cartellone, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The saga began in 1993 when Cartellone and his wife Jennifer consulted The Christ Hospital and the Institute for Reproductive Health in Cincinnati about their trouble conceiving a child, according to the suit.

The couple underwent IVF with embryos created from what they were told were Jennifer’s eggs and Joseph’s sperm, the complaint says. After their daughter Rebecca was born, they believe she was their biological offspring.

But in December, Rebecca bought popular DNA test kits, often used to trace ancestry, for her family as a Christmas gift. The results that came back stunned them: Rebecca was not related to Joseph by blood.

According to the lawsuit, the only possibility is that the clinic used someone else’s sperm. The court papers said that person has not been identified but that “independent research” suggests it came from a medical professional at the hospital.

“Rebecca’s DNA has none of my or my Italian family’s genetic makeup,” Joseph Cartellone said at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.

“She has no idea who her biological father is. She knows nothing about half her biological background.”

Cartellone added that his daughter was experiencing significant emotional distress and confusion concerning her own identity. He also said that his wife Jennifer was “profoundly disappointed that she can no longer give birth to a child with both of our our genetics.”

The hospital and institute did not respond to requests for comment.

But the law firm representing the family, Peiffer Wolf Carr, notes that the apparent swap is not the first fertility foul-up. Just last month, another lawsuit charged that embryos from two different couples were mistakenly given to a third couple—who then had to give up the twins that were born.

“We need accountability for big fertility,” attorney Joseph Peiffer said in a press release.

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