Health Ministry slams hospital’s handling of potential embryo mix-up

Assuta Medical Center denies improper conduct after ministry accuses it of serious breach of protocol at Tel Aviv facility

Illustrative image: A lab in an IVF clinic. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Illustrative image: A lab in an IVF clinic. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Health Ministry on Friday accused the Assuta Medical Center of mishandling concerns that a child born through in vitro fertility treatment is not genetically linked to his father.

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

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.

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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