Fertility Clinics in California, Louisiana Face Lawsuits Over Destroying Embryos

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 29, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Fertility Clinics in California, Louisiana Face Lawsuits Over Destroying Embryos

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 29
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Fertility clinics in Louisiana and California are facing lawsuits over their destruction or mishandling of human embryos — the unique human beings waiting to be born. The lawsuits highlight the problems of fertility clinics having such a direct control over the life and death of people in their earliest days.

In New Orleans, Ochsner Hospital has admitted to mishandling human embryos that were eventually destroyed or for which they can’t account.

Lawyers for as many as 100 clients say they have already filed or will be filing lawsuits against the medical center.

"My clients have struggled with this travesty for the last year," Melanie Lagarde, an attorney for Kim and Abraham Whitney, who lost four embryos in the mix-ups, told CBS News. "They want to know what happened to these embryos."

Despite supposed safeguards, Ochsner has admitted that some human beings were destroyed and others are missing and its fertility clinic can’t determine their whereabouts.

"We are disappointed in ourselves," Dr. Patrick Quinlan, said the CEO of Ochsner Health System, told CBS News.

But he claims no parents went home with the wrong baby, unlike what happened in one case that has drawn national attention.

Ochsner has suspended its in vitro program indefinitely pending a complete review and is offering free DNA testing to any client who wants that done to verify that their embryo is safe and sound.

Meanwhile, a couple in California has sued a San Francisco fertility clinic for destroying human embryos that were inseminated with the wife’s eggs and another man’s sperm.

Robert and Katie Aschero have sued Laurel Fertility Care saying it inseminated seven human embryos using the wrong sperm instead of Robert’s, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. The suit alleges the mistake violated the contract the Ascheros took out with the center.

Katie Aschero said she learned seven of 13 viable embryos (unborn children) were inseminated with another man’s sperm and the clinic staff destroyed them even though the couple’s contract with the clinic specified embryos not be destroyed.

Three of the six correctly inseminated with Robert Aschero’s sperm were implanted but the pregnancy was not successful.

"They were contractually obligated to keep them," the couple’s attorney Nancy Hersh said. "In addition to making the mistake, she learned they were destroyed and that caused additional distress."

Katie Aschero said she doesn’t know if she would have used the incorrectly inseminated embryos, but would have appreciated a chance to donate them to couples who want children.

The suit names three specialists, Dr. Lee-Chuan Kao, Dr. Collin Smikle and Marlane Angle, the in vitro laboratory director as well as the clinic itself. No one from the clinic would comment, nor would their attorney David Lucchese, the Chronicle said.

The case that has received the most attention involves an Ohio fertility clinic that gave a mother the wrong unborn child.

The case involves Sean and Carolyn Savage, an Ohio couple, who had hoped and struggled for one more child from in vitro fertilization.

When the doctor’s call came, however, Sean was in "total shock" as they were told from fertility clinic staff that the fertility clinic had implanted another couple’s embryos into Carolyn’s womb.

The couple decided against having an abortion.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) supposedly has "a series of strong protocol recommendations" for clinics, but Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council says they are merely recommendations.

"This is an entirely unregulated industry, a business. It’s the same manufacturing industry that brought us the ‘Octomom’ and ‘egg brokers,’ treating babies and women’s bodies and eggs as commodities," the former Indiana State University biology professor says.

"Maybe it’s about time we took a harder look at the whole idea of cavalierly creating life in the lab," he added. "The fertility industry oversees itself."

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