IVF embryo mix-up: Baby girl just born but who are the parents?

Sheba Hospital says the woman and baby are in good condition after Wednesday morning birth.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An Israeli woman at the center of a fertility scandal gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday morning. Officials at the Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan said the woman and baby are in good condition.

The birth came one day after the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon LeTzion rejected a request to appoint a legal guardian for the then-unborn fetus whose biological parents remain unknown.

The woman who gave birth issued a statement through her lawyers, saying, “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 this long-awaited moment. I ask that they allow me to raise her and leave me alone.”

The saga began in September 2022, when a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy underwent an in-vitro procedure to correct a heart defect in the fetus.

After the surgery, doctors discovered that neither the pregnant woman nor her husband had any genetic connection to the unborn baby she was carrying.

The baby was conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) at the fertility clinic of Assuta Hospital in Rishon LeTzion. The process involves creating the embryo in a laboratory from the mother’s egg and father’s sperm, then implanting it in the mother’s womb.

After being informed she was not the biological mother, the woman immediately declared that she nevertheless wanted to keep the baby.

Further complications

It’s not yet clear who the baby’s biological parents are.

One couple informed by Assuta that they were the parents triggered a flurry of legal activity for custody. The couple rushed to conduct a DNA test so that the pregnant woman could not be declared the baby’s legal mother. The pregnant woman filed an appeal, but was ultimately forced to submit to a DNA test.

However, the results of the genetic testing revealed on Monday that the petitioning couple were not the biological parents after all and Assuta’s notification was a mistake.

It is believed that no more than 20-40 couples are likely the genetic parents of the baby. However, anonymous sources from Assuta told Ynet that the potential parents of the baby actually number in the hundreds.

The pregnant woman’s attorneys said in court that Assuta Hospital had subjected her to “severe torture” and that they would be filing an injunction against the hospital to prevent more DNA tests in the future.

“The pregnant mother is getting ready to give birth when her heart is torn,” her attorneys were quoted as saying by Ynet. “There will be a lot of talk about Assuta’s failures. This is the first case, but we are sure not the only one. This is a high-risk pregnancy, and [Assuta Hospital’s] behavior could have caused damage to the fetus.”

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On Tuesday, the court rejected an additional request by Assuta Hospital and the state to declare a legal guardian for the fetus who could lobby on behalf of the baby for additional genetic testing.

The court’s decision may signal that the woman who gave birth will be allowed to register herself as the legal mother.

According to Hebrew media reports, Health Ministry officials are considering moving to close Assuta’s IVF department.