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California Couple Sues Fertility Clinic Over Devastating IVF Mix-Up

The two couples gave birth to and raised each other’s baby for months before the mix-up was confirmed.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Published November 9, 2021
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Image: Getty Images // Kim Jane

Two California couples gave birth to each other’s babies due to an embryo mix-up during their in-vitro fertilization process at their fertility clinic, California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH), based in Los Angeles. One of the couples, Daphna and Alexander Cardinale, has filed a lawsuit against the clinic and its owner, Eliran Mor, MD, for medical malpractice, breach of contract, negligence and fraud. It accuses CCRH of mixing up the embryos—one made with Daphna’s egg and Alexander’s sperm—for the two couples.

In their suit, which, according to AP asks for a jury trial, the Cardinales say they had suspicions of a mix-up when, in September 2019, Daphna gave birth to a baby girl with a darker complexion. The couple told ABC7NY something felt off after the birth and their daughter didn’t seem familiar. However, they didn’t act on their suspicions because they loved the baby and trusted the IVF process, as well as their doctors. They add that both couples raised the wrong baby for almost three months, until January 2020, before a DNA test confirmed the switch.

Daphna says learning the baby wasn’t hers caused lasting trauma. She was also heartbroken to share the news with her older daughter, now 7 years old. “I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak,” she said during a news conference. “I was robbed of the ability to carry my own child. I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick.”

The second couple, according to attorney Adam Wolf, wish to remain anonymous and have plans to file a similar lawsuit. Wolf, whose firm specializes in fertility cases, will represent both couples.

“The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child, and were terrified she would be taken away from them,” the complaint says. “All the while, Alexander and Daphna did not know the whereabouts of their own embryo, and thus were terrified that another woman had been pregnant with their child – and their child was out in the world somewhere without them.”

This sadly isn’t the first mix-up to happen during the IVF process. In 2019, a couple from Glendale, California, sued CHA Fertility Center because they believed their embryo had been implanted into a woman from New York and she had given birth to their son. According to Wolf, IVF clinics need stronger oversight and federal regulations.

The two couples, who both welcomed a baby girl in September 2019 born one week apart, are now trying to figure out a way to come together as a larger family. “They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs,” Alexander said.

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