Some nine months after she was mistakenly implanted with a fetus that was not genetically hers, a woman gave birth Wednesday to a healthy baby girl at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.
The hospital, which referred to the newborn only as “the baby about which there was recent public discussion,” said in a statement shortly after midday that both the mother and child were doing well and that the newborn was undergoing checkups.
The new parents, identified only by the Hebrew initials Ayin and Alef, have said they plan to raise the baby as their own.
In a statement via her attorneys, the mother said: “I am tired and exhausted. I have fulfilled my life’s dream. I wanted a baby for many years and went through grueling treatments until the long-awaited moment arrive. I ask that they allow me to raise her and leave me alone.”
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.
That led to a very public fight between the two couples, with the supposed biological parents saying they would seek custody of the child, while the pregnant woman and her husband vowed to fight to keep it.
However, a test found that the second couple had no genetic connection to the fetus. As a result, a family court on Tuesday rejected the second couple’s request for custody, leaving the new mother and her husband as the infant’s legal guardians.
Speaking to the Walla news site on Wednesday, Assuta Chairman Prof. Shuki Shemer said it was unlikely that the newborn would be taken away from the mother.
“At this point, we don’t have any leads to identify the child’s biological parents. We intend to ask the Health Ministry to reexamine the benefits compared with the damages that the continued search could entail,” he said.
Shemer defined the mistake that led to the highly unusual incident as “a human error,” and said the hospital was currently “unable to identify where exactly it originated.”
He added, “This is a serious incident. We will need to take action and make sure that such an incident does not reccur.”
If the hospital is told to continue searching for the biological parents, it will potentially need to test some 40 women in order to identify the embryo’s biological mother with certainty. After this happens, a legal process could follow to determine who receives custody over the newborn, but attorneys for the new parents have asked that the quest be stopped.
A legal battle is likely to ensue if another couple is determined to be the embryo’s biological parents.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that there are hundreds of women who had fertility treatment via Assuta hospital and “a large group” have already joined forces to seek legal advice with the intention of demanding that Assuta verify their embryos were not implanted in other women, or that the embryos they are carrying are not from someone else.
Such a case appears to be unprecedented in Israel.
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.