Couples sues California fertility clinic after IVF mixup left two women giving birth to each other’s babies

The families didn’t discover the truth until months later

Helen Elfer
Tuesday 09 November 2021 12:05
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A couple are suing the fertility clinic that mixed up their embryo with one belonging to another set of parents, and mistakenly implanted each into the wrong woman during IVF treatment.

Alexander and Daphna Cardinale didn’t find out the truth about their baby until two months after the birth, during which time their baby girl’s appearance had raised a lot of questions.

Mr Cardinale told People he was confused because the baby looked nothing like him or his wife.

“If we hadn’t done IVF, I would’ve just chalked [the lack of resemblance] up to genetics,” he said. “She just looks how she looks. No big deal. But because we’d done IVF, my brain started going to the dark place.”

At first Ms Cardinale was less convinced that anything was wrong, saying: “She felt so familiar to me because I carried her and I birthed her.”

However, “she looked like she could actually be a different ethnicity than us because she didn’t really look like us,” said Ms Cardinale, so she eventually decided to take a home DNA test.

This undated photo provided by the Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway law firm shows Daphna and Alexander Cardinale. They are one two California couples who gave birth to each others' babies after a mix-up at a fertility clinic, and spent months raising children that weren't theirs before swapping the infants, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Mr Cardinale says when the results came in, their “world started falling apart.”

“We got an email that basically said that she was genetically related to neither of us,” he said.

The couple then found themselves in the agonising position of fearing they would lose their new daughter, and at the same time aware that there might be a biological child of theirs somewhere out there.

Days later clinic staff told the Cardinales’ attorney that their embryos had been mixed up in the lab, according to the couple. They also said they were told that the clinic had located their little girl’s biological parents, who had also recently given birth to a baby girl.

In December 2019, the two couples and their babies had DNA testing, and on Christmas Eve, received news confirming that they had given birth to each other’s children.

After weeks of almost-daily visits between the families, the couples decided to exchange the baby girls, leaving each to live with her biological family. Nearly two years later, Mr Cardinale says the families are very close.

“We ended up just sort of huddling together, the four of us, and it’s a blessing that we all are on the same page. We’ve spent every holiday together since then. We’ve spent every birthday together since then — and we’ve just kind of blended the families.”

Now the Cardinales are suing the fertility clinic, the Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health, and its owner for medical malpractice, negligence, fraud and more.

The Independent reached out to the California Center for Reproductive Health for comment.

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