Boy, 13, learns he is victim of IVF mix-up

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A boy aged 13 has learnt that the man he thought was his father has no biological relation to him after his mother was given the wrong sperm in an IVF mix-up.

A boy aged 13 has learnt that the man he thought was his father has no biological relation to him after his mother was given the wrong sperm in an IVF mix-up.

When the results of a DNA test of the man finally came through they confirmed what his "son" and his mother, who is separated from the man and has remarried, had long suspected.

The son said: "Now I can get on with the rest of my life. I am relieved to know the truth at last but I have no wish to know who my real father is."

It is the second known case in which an IVF mix-up has led to the wrong sperm being used. Last year, a white couple gave birth to black twins after sperm samples accidentally became switched in a fertility clinic.

That case led to a shake-up in IVF clinics and new, more stringent checks were introduced to avoid a repeat. Doctors said yesterday that similar mistakes were unlikely to happen again.

But the new case will increase fears that there are other babies born through IVF who are the victims of similar, but unrecognised, errors.

The case occurred in 1988 at the private Wellington Hospital in north London. The mother and her then husband reportedly paid £5,000 for treatment at the hospital's IVF clinic which was run at the time by Ian Craft, the outspoken fertility specialist who is now director of the London Fertility Centre in Harley Street.

Mr Craft, who has repeatedly clashed with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, set up two years later in 1990 to regulate IVF, was not available for comment yesterday but a spokesman said he was unable to confirm details of the case. "It was a different clinic and such a long time ago. The records we have here [at the London Fertility Centre] date from the start of this clinic in 1990," the spokesman said.

Almost from birth, the mother said she suspected something was wrong. She told The Sun newspaper, said to have paid £80,000 for the story: "He was fair haired, blue eyed and slight like me but he had no resemblance to his father. And the older he grew the less he looked or acted like his father."

After the couple divorced, the boy visited his "father" every other weekend under the terms of a court order. But by the age of five he had become increasingly uncomfortable on the visits and sometimes refused to go.

His mother, who had by then remarried, applied to the Family Division of the High Court for a DNA test to settle the issue but his "father" refused to comply. The legal impasse was only broken when the High Court finally ordered the test should go ahead and the results came through earlier this year.

The mother told the newspaper: "If the judge had ordered the DNA test all those years ago, when I first requested it, I might have been able to find out who Daniel's real father is. But now I do not want or need to know. My son is my son - that's all I need to know or want."

A spokesman for the Wellington Hospital said it had not had an IVF clinic for more than a decade and the hospital had changed hands several times since. "No one who looks at a case like this can fail to have sympathy for those involved," he added.

Professor Alison Murdoch, who chairs the British Fertility Society, said the potential for IVF mix-ups nowadays was "extremely small". She added: "It was a long time ago and processes have improved greatly since."