Genetic test finds couple are not biological parents of mistakenly implanted embryo

With woman carrying child that isn’t biologically hers due to give birth within days, Rishon Lezion hospital must now test further women to determine who is biological mother

Illustrative: Genetic testing. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Illustrative: Genetic testing. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

A genetic test has ruled out the parentage of a couple who had been presumed to be the biological parents of a fetus mistakenly implanted in another woman.

The error occurred during fertility treatments at Rishon Lezion’s Assuta Medical Center. After whittling down the list of potential parents, Assuta notified one couple that it was the most likely to be the fetus’s biological parents, pending a genetic test.

This led to a very public fight between the two couples, with the supposed biological parents saying they would seek custodianship of the child, while the pregnant woman and her husband vowed to fight to keep it.

The child is due within days, and a court ruled last week that a genetic test must be conducted “immediately” to identify the biological parents, while criticizing the pregnant couple for apparently trying to delay the process.

However, the test found that the second couple have no genetic connection to the fetus.

“The tests that were performed ruled out the possibility of [their] genetic motherhood or fatherhood,” Lod District Court Judge Hani Shira informed the sides’ lawyers.

Now, the hospital will need to test some 40 potential women in order to identify the embryo’s biological mother with certainty. After this happens, a legal process will follow to determine who receives custody over the newborn.

It was not immediately clear what data had led to the presumption that the now-ruled-out couple were the biological parents.

The pregnant woman and her husband, identified only by the Hebrew initials Ayin and Alef, have said they plan on raising the baby as their own, indicating a legal battle is likely to ensue between them and whoever is determined to be the embryo’s biological parents.

Such a case appears to be unprecedented in Israel.

Assuta Medical Center in Rishon Lezion. (Screen capture: Google Maps)

A former hospital employee last month anonymously claimed that she’d witnessed several instances of neglect involving the handling of embryos while working at Assuta, a claim the hospital refused to respond to.

A week later, Assuta’s IVF laboratory manager said that a “certain percentage” of women who undergo in vitro fertilization all over the country carry an embryo that is not their own, though the hospital distanced itself from his claims.

While extremely rare, similar cases have been reported elsewhere.

In November 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported that a woman had given birth to her second daughter, only to discover weeks later that the girl was unrelated to her. In that case, the woman retained custody of the baby girl.

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