Hospital embroiled in fertility debacle previously lost another embryo — report

Israeli TV says patients came to financial settlement with clinic; Assuta Medical Center scrabbles to find biological parents of mismatched fetus in current case

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

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

A hospital in central Israel at the center of a scandal involving a fertility mixup also lost an embryo belonging to a couple who were previously patients at the clinic, Israeli television reported Thursday.

The woman from the previous case at Assuta Medical Center in Rishon Lezion told Channel 12 news that the fate of her embryo remained a mystery, saying she feared that it was transferred to someone else’s womb. It was unclear exactly when the incident occurred.

According to the network, the couple came to a financial settlement with the hospital after the embryo was lost.

The report came as the hospital faced intense scrutiny this week after a patient who had an embryo transfer following IVF was found to be carrying a fetus that was not genetically matched to her or her partner. The woman is in her 30th week of pregnancy.

Following the discovery, the hospital released a statement saying they tracked down 40 couples the fetus may belong to but noted there was a “low possibility” of finding a match among them. The medical center also reported the matter to the Health Ministry, which promptly established an investigatory committee.

“We have ceased all operations surrounding these embryos, and as needed we will contact the patients immediately,” the hospital added.

Illustrative: Ultrasound. (via Shutterstock)

The mixup at Assuta may only be the tip of the iceberg. An anonymous former hospital employee said she witnessed several instances of neglect involving the handling of embryos while working there.

“There were many occurrences when embryos were not at a quality to be transferred, but in order to not cause disappointment to the patients, it was determined to transfer them, even though we were 99% sure that it would not result in pregnancy,” she told Channel 12.

The hospital refused to respond to the anonymous claims.

Galit Kerner, a lawyer who has worked on similar cases in the past, told the Ynet news site that the clinic demonstrated “unequivocal negligence” by violating “simple rules” put in place to prevent such cases.

Kerner noted the incident was exceptional compared to the case of an incorrect embryonic transfer at Barzilai Medical Center in 2017, when the mixup was discovered soon after, as opposed to during a later stage in the pregnancy.

Unnamed health officials also told Ynet that if the victims of the mismatch decide to take legal action, they would receive a significantly large payout as the matter was only discovered at a late stage in the pregnancy.

All parties involved, including Assuta Medical Center, its owner Maccabi Healthcare Services and the Health Ministry would be likely included in the suit, according to the report.

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