Lawyer condemns IVF mistakes
Leading IVF lawyer Muiris Lyons of national law firm Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, today branded the latest figures regarding IVF clinic blunders released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) as appalling.
Figures released yesterday by the HFEA under the Freedom of Information Act showed a catalogue of blunders at some of the country's top IVF clinics, including staff dropping embryos, eggs and sperm on the floor or samples being mistakenly thrown out with the rubbish. Failed storage equipment also meant that frozen embryos and sperm samples thawed which could in some cases lead to a family's last chance of having a natural child of their own being lost.
The figures show that between April 2005 and March 2006 140 incidents and near misses were reported to the HFEA. Of these 91 were categorised as Grade A being the most severe with 38 Grade B incidents and 11 near miss incidents. The report Driving Improvement which is available from the HFEA website here confirmed that the most serious incidents include the loss of gametes (eggs or sperm) and embryos through dropping dishes or tripping or accidental disposal and that equipment failure compromised viable embryos.
Commenting on the HFEA report Muiris Lyons, of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represents Natallie Evans in her frozen embryo claim which is currently awaiting judgment from the European Court of Human Rights, said:
Each of these incidents is a tragedy for the couples or patients involved. The financial and emotional investment made by people going through the IVF process is huge. The treatment is hard and the prospects of success are uncertain. To go through the process only to find that a blunder at the clinic has resulted in the loss of your embryo or gametes must be devastating. One quarter of all the incidents occurred at only 6 clinics, and that is appalling.
For some couples or patients who have to undergo IVF not through choice but because of the need to store gametes or embryos before undergoing radiotherapy for treatment for cancer the loss of their stored genetic material could result in them losing the opportunity to have a natural child of their own.
IVF mistakes could lead to considerable compensation payout
The clinics involved in these blunders are now likely to face legal action for compensation. This could include the cost of further IVF treatment to replace embryos or gametes lost and compensation for the loss of the chance to have a child.
Muiris Lyons added I have acted for a number of people who have lost gametes or embryos in claims against the clinics involved. The recent report shows the scale of the problem which has plainly affected a significant number of people.
The most serious IVF blunder in the UK occurred in Leeds in 2002 when mixed race babies were born to a white couple after a woman's eggs were fertilised with the wrong mans sperm.
The case gave rise to the recent acclaimed Channel 4 docu-drama Born with Two Mothers "Born with Two Mothers" in which Muiris appeared as himself advising one of the couples involved in the mix-up. The plot device was also used in the third series of hit American show Desperate Housewives which aired on Channel 4 for the first time in the UK last week where childless couple Gabrielle and Carlos Solis were the victims of an IVF clinic blunder which resulted in their surrogate mother giving birth to a black child following an embryo mix-up.
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