Modern version of Biblical King Solomon's dilemma

Probable biological mother in embryo mix-up: ‘I wish I could hug the other woman’

‘We’re both victims of this terrible error,’ she says of woman pregnant with wrong embryo. ‘I wish I could cry with her’; couple learned from TV that fetus is female

Illustrative -- In this May 15, 2018, photo, a scientist picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Illustrative -- In this May 15, 2018, photo, a scientist picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The probable biological mother of an embryo mistakenly implanted in another woman during fertility treatment at an Israeli hospital said she was devastated by the experience and expressed sympathy for the other woman involved in the mix-up.

“I am in an impossible situation,” she told Channel 12 news in an interview broadcast Friday. “I haven’t known peace for two weeks. I’m devastated, destroyed.”

“I am not living — I can’t function, I don’t eat, I don’t sleep,” said the woman identified only by the initial “Aleph.”

“Just the thought that this could be my baby who was mistakenly, terribly mistakenly, implanted into another woman, when my husband and I are in such a complicated and arduous and difficult process of trying to have a child,” she said.

“My heart goes out to that woman [carrying the embryo]. I really identify with her. I wish I could hug her now and cry with her, because we are both victims of this terrible mistake that happened,” she said.

Aleph said that when the horrifying situation at Rishon Lezion’s Assuta Medical Center was first reported, she and her husband were terrified that they could be impacted.

Illustrative: An in vitro fertilization embryologist works on a petri dish at a fertility clinic in London, August 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Their attorney said the couple began to panic as it soon became clear that they were involved.

“Within a few days [the doctor] told them that following tests and narrowing down the possibilities at Assuta Hospital, they were the couple with the highest probability of being the parents,” said Shira Fridan.

Fridan said the couple had learned only through a television report that the fetus was female.

“The couple I represent must in every sense — practical and emotional — know if they are the parents. This fetus that may be theirs will soon be a baby girl,” Fridan said.

“It’s an embryo that was obtained through exertion, through grueling fertility treatments,” she said.

Fridan said it was imperative that the legal system makes a ruling on parenthood before the child is born in a number of weeks.

This type of case — where an embryo is implanted in the wrong woman — appears to be unprecedented in Israel, making it unclear how things will turn out if the matter goes to trial.

The horrendous mix-up has created a situation reminiscent of the judgment of King Solomon, when the Biblical king had to make a ruling when two women claimed to be the mother of a child.

Earlier this week, the couple who received the wrong embryo during fertility treatments said they were appalled by the mix-up and planned to raise the child as their own, though their custody may be contested in court.

“It’s crazy. We just can’t believe it, especially my wife. Naturally, she responded to it, saying, ‘No way. It’s hers, and this is impossible. They can’t take [the baby] away,'” the father told Channel 12, which first reported on the case.

For privacy reasons, the couple asked not to be identified by name, using instead their first Hebrew initials.

The husband said they had no question about raising the baby as their own, despite the situation.

“We never thought otherwise for a moment, even with all of the dilemmas and everything that happened, we never had one hesitation or thought on the subject,” he said.

“This girl — from the first second she was implanted we’ve been counting the minutes until she was born,” he said.

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

The couple said it had taken them years for the wife, “Ayin,” to get pregnant, requiring multiple rounds of fertility treatments, including hormone therapies, egg extractions and other procedures, before they were finally successful.

When she was seven months pregnant, they went to another hospital for some tests, and there they discovered the error.

“After the procedure, they wanted to know more about our daughter, and then they said, ‘Wait, something doesn’t add up here.’ We did another, more invasive test and found it all out,” Aleph said.

“It’s crazy! This is basically their one job, and they messed it up,” he said.

“Assuta expresses its regret for this rare occurrence, which happened in the IVF clinic in Rishon Lezion. This was a tragic human error, and Assuta will do everything in its power to find advanced solutions to improve the process so that a case like this never happens again,” the medical center said in a statement.

The Health Ministry has vowed to immediately establish a committee to investigate the incident.

While extremely rare, similar cases have happened before.

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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