Embryo mix-up at two fertility clinics

September 28, 2009

In Ohio, Shannon Morrell will get her baby, even though their embryo was implanted into the wrong woman.

In New Orleans, Ochsner Hospital has closed its in-vitro clinic, because as many as 100 embryos may have been mislabeled. None were implanted, but some couples, already facing the hardships of conceiving, have new worries.

A doctor we spoke with says there are guidelines to prevent errors however it's up to each individual clinic to enforce them. If they're not enforced the result can be emotionally devastating to many lives.

"You can't believe you're in a situation where this is unfolding."

Carolyn Savage, of Sylvania, Ohio, gave birth to a healthy baby boy this past week but due a mix up at her fertility clinic, she wasn't carrying her baby. So she and her husband gave the boy to his biological mother, Shannon Morell.

"I felt weird, they felt weird and I just thanked her," Shannon said.

Dr. John Orris is a partner at Main Line Fertility. He is not involved in this case and says mistakes like what happened with the Savages and what's unfolding in New Orleans are rare but can be life-altering.

"It's probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make aside from an orthopedic surgeon cutting off the wrong leg it's up at that level."

Because of that Dr. Orris says strict rules have to be followed. There are national guidelines but it's up to each individual clinic to enforce them. He says at their clinics specimens are labeled by name, number, color code and date of birth and checked every step of the way. Also only one specimen can be worked on at a time.

"What that does in most simplistic manner is it alleviates any possibility that they would be mixing anyone's specimen."

He says for families researching fertility clinics you need to check out their reputation, their success rate, look for negative press and ask questions.

"How do you handle the embryos, the gametes, who handles them and how do you ensure they get to the right place all the time?"

Dr. Orris says other fertility experts will be watching to find out how mistakes were made at these other clinics.

For the Savage's, they say they will be dealing with this for the rest of their lives.

The Savage's say they will be using a surrogate to carry their next child. The name of the fertility clinic responsible for the mistake has not been released.

More HealthCheck related links:

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.