Embryo Mix-Up At London Hospital Prompts Criticism

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

London (CNSNews.com) - British pro-life groups Tuesday called a three-way in-vitro fertilization mix-up at a London hospital a "tragedy" Tuesday.

The mistake happened at St. George's Hospital in April of this year but was only revealed this week.

Three women were involved in the mix-up. The first woman had produced several embryos and two of the "best quality" were reserved for implantation but were erroneously implanted into a second woman.

The second woman's embryos were then implanted into a third woman. Both the second and the third woman were given drugs to prevent pregnancy after the mistake was discovered.

Two of the women are now pregnant with their own embryos, while one of the women was so traumatized by the incident that she decided not to continue with IVF treatment.

The hospital's fertility clinic has since closed and the facility's director, Dr. Geeta Nargund, has been suspended, but the hospital said the suspension was for "non-clinical matters" and was unrelated to the mix-up.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) expressed its "sorrow and concern" at the mistakes.

"Here we have yet another instance of human life being treated as a mere commodity," said SPUC general secretary Paul Tully. "IVF invariably means that embryos are deliberately discarded during a degrading sorting-out process. In this particular case, mistakes appear to have been made during this process, which only adds to the tragedy.

"This type of fertility treatment needs to be completely replaced by ethical ways of helping childless couples," he said.

St. George's admitted that the clinic suffered from staffing and financial problems that led to the mix-up and two weeks ago the hospital determined that the "long-term outlook was that this was unsustainable."

Britain's IVF industry has come under increased scrutiny recently. In July, a white woman gave birth to black twins in a similar mix-up.

Josephine Quintavalle of pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said that more such mistakes would happen in the future.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," she said. "More and more of these cases are coming to light."

Quintavalle also took issue with the practice of embryo grading, where doctors visually assess the embryo before implantation in the womb.

"Embryologists are making decisions on what embryo is better than the other," she said. "They just can't wait to start grading human life."

"In this case the solution to the mix-up was seen as 'flushing out' the embryo. That's not something to be taken casually. It's quite frankly revolting," she said.

See Previous Story:
Clinic Suspected Of Mixing Up Test Tube Embryos (July 8, 2002)

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