IVF Clinic 'Failing To Learn From Mistakes' – Lawyer Claims

Second IVF Wales Error Revealed As Couple Are Told Their Embryos 'Are Missing'

25.04.2010

IVF Clinic 'Failing To Learn From Mistakes' – Lawyer Claims

A leading medical negligence expert has criticised the IVF industry for failing to learn lessons from its mistakes after it was revealed that a couple's embryos have gone missing from the same Welsh clinic which was at the centre of a major scandal last year.

Cardiff-based University Hospital of Wales' IVF clinic (also known as IVF Wales), which last year admitted that it had wrongly implanted a couple's last remaining embryo into another patient, has now told another couple that it cannot account for the whereabouts of their embryos.

Guy Forster, a medical negligence solicitor with national law firm, Irwin Mitchell who represents both couples treated by IVF Wales, has criticised not only the clinic for failing to learn lessons but also the industry’s regulator, the Human Embryo and Fertilisation Authority (HFEA) for failing to take effective action in similar incidents.

Mr Forster successfully represented Deborah and Paul, a couple from Bridgend in South Wales, whose last remaining embryo was wrongly implanted into another patient. When the blunder, which happened in December 2007, was discovered, the patient took the decision to take the morning-after pill. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board admitted liability for gross failures in care resulting from the incident and, in June 2009, paid out an undisclosed five figure sum in compensation to the couple.

Mr Forster says he is deeply concerned by the latest error, which is believed to have occurred in July 2008 – just seven months after the first mix-up.

The second couple, identified only as Clare and Gareth and from Cardiff, will be speaking for the first time, exclusively on the Donal Macintyre  BBC Radio 5 live Programme this evening (Sunday 25th April) at 7.30pm. Clare and Gareth had been trying for a baby for more than seven years and were referred for IVF treatment in 2007 following two unsuccessful rounds off IUI (assisted insemination)

Clare underwent her first embryo transfer in July 2008 but the cycle proved to be unsuccessful and three remaining viable embryos were frozen for future IVF treatment.

In 2009, Clare decided to have IVF treatment using these remaining embryos but, on 21st April – the date that she was due to undergo transfer - she received a phone call from IVF Wales to say there had been "a few problems in the laboratory with the embryos" and that all would be explained on arrival at the clinic.

The couple rushed to the clinic where they were told that, on thawing the embryos, it was clear that only one embryo was present and the other two embryos were missing. As Clare had already been prepared for transfer she underwent treatment with the last remaining embryo but sadly this treatment was unsuccessful.

Despite repeatedly raising concerns with the clinic, the couple has been unable to gain answers as to how their embryos came to be lost.  Clare and Gareth have now instructed Guy Forster at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors to take legal action, against Cardiff and Wales University Health Board, for negligence.

The embryologist explained to the couple that the embryos were most likely lost when they were first frozen back in July 2008 but it has provided no further explanation regarding how they were lost or their possible whereabouts.

The incident was reported to the HFEA but IVF Wales has confirmed there was no HFEA investigation.

Mr Forster said: "I am deeply concerned that the same clinic finds itself yet again at the centre of a serious incident.  The second error involving Clare and Gareth's embryos appears to have occurred just seven months after the first serious incident relating to Paul and Deborah’s embryo. The incident followed two previous near miss incidents and concerns raised in inspections of the clinic.

"It seems that lessons have not been learned.  Not only does this raise concerns about the clinic, but also serious questions need to be asked regarding the HFEA's ability to properly regulate the IVF industry.

"We represent a number of couples who have suffered similar problems with other clinics.  The number of incidents reported to the HFEA is rising but it is difficult to know whether these couples' experiences represent just the tip of the iceberg, because the onus is on clinics to identify and report their own errors.

"These types of mistakes cause unimaginable heartache and anguish to couples longing for a baby.  The public should have full confidence that any errors which occur are properly acted upon and, most importantly, that clinics learn from their mistakes."

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of fertility negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.