Health Ministry expected to probe hospital’s latest possible embryo mix-up

Report says officials deliberating between having committee that is already investigating similar case examine matter or forming new panel

Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv's Ramat HaHayal neighborhood, May 20, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv's Ramat HaHayal neighborhood, May 20, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is expected to launch a probe into the Assuta Medical Center, following concerns that a child born through in vitro fertility treatment was not genetically linked to his father, it was reported Saturday.

According to the Ynet news site, Health Ministry officials were deliberating whether to carry out the investigation as part of a committee that inspected a similar case at the hospital’s Rishon Lezion branch last year, or forming a new inspection committee.

The report said ministry officials would hold a meeting on the planned probe into Assuta’s branch in Tel Aviv’s Ramat HaHayal neighborhood, on Sunday morning.

The parents and their child in question underwent medical testing overseas when they were told of the potential mismatch with the father’s DNA, the ministry said in a statement Friday. The couple underwent the IVF process in 2018 through the Ramat HaHayal Assuta hospital.

The Health Ministry said that it was informed of the suspected case from a third party, not from Assuta. It said it was investigating and charged the hospital’s conduct was a serious breach of protocol.

In a letter to employees, Assuta director Gidi Leshetz said that the Health Ministry was not updated on the matter because the genetic tests were not performed by the hospital and the parents requested the issue remain private.

Illustrative image: A single sperm is injected directly into an egg as part of IVF. (Lars Neumann via iStock by Getty Images)

Hospital officials claimed to Channel 13 news that the Health Ministry’s actions needlessly infringed upon the parents’ privacy, saying that Assuta was being unfairly blamed before the investigation has gotten to the bottom of the matter.

In response, the Health Ministry dismissed the charge of privacy infringement as baseless, saying such considerations did not prevent Assuta from informing it about a similar incident last year.

Last September, a woman discovered that her embryo had been mixed up at the hospital’s Rishon Lezion branch. She and her husband waged a months-long legal battle to keep the baby, Sophia, who was born in October.

In that case, the Health Ministry initially sought to find the child’s biological parents, but after one couple thought most likely to be the parents was ruled out by tests, officials announced in November that they would halt the search.

In March, the Supreme Court decided not to allow further genetic testing to go ahead for six other potential couples to determine if they were the biological parents of the child.

According to the ruling, justices determined that there was very little chance that the six couples may be the biological parents, and that the birth mother and her husband’s legal claim over the child was stronger.

A Health Ministry probe into the incident at Assuta Rishon Lezion pointed to significant breaches in protocol due to heavy workload resulting in the misplanting of the embryo.

Michael Horovitz contributed reporting.

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