Women give birth to each other's babies and raise them after fertility clinic mix-up

9 November 2021, 19:23

Daphna and Alexander Cardinale raised a baby for three months that was not theirs
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale raised a baby for three months that was not theirs. Picture: Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway

By Daisy Stephens

Two couples gave birth to one another's babies after a mix-up at a fertility clinic and subsequently spent months raising children that were not theirs, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit claims the California Centre for Reproductive Health (CCRH) implanted the embryos into the wrong women, resulting in both women carrying, birthing and, for three months, raising, a child that was not biologically theirs.

The babies, both girls, were born a week apart in September 2019.

It was not until DNA tests were carried out that the parents were told they had been implanted with the wrong embryos.

Daphna Cardinale said she and her husband, Alexander, had immediate suspicions that the girl she gave birth to in late 2019 was not theirs because the child had a darker complexion than they do.

But she said they suppressed their doubts because they fell in love with the baby and trusted their doctors.

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She said learning months alter she had been pregnant with another couple's baby, and that another woman had carried hers, caused enduring trauma.

"I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak," Daphna said during a news conference with her husband announcing the lawsuit.

She said she was "robbed" of the experience of carrying her own child, adding: "I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick."

The couples swapped infants back in January 2020, with all four parents making an effort to stay in each other's lives and "forge a larger family", Daphna said.

Alexander said the other couple were just as much in love with his and Daphna's biological daughter as they were with theirs.

Daphna described breaking the news to her older daughter, who is now seven, as "the hardest thing in my life".

"My heart breaks for her, perhaps the most," she said.

The Cardinales' complaint accuses the CCRH and its owner, Dr Eliran Mor, of medical malpractice, breach of contract, negligence and fraud, and demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.

Yvonne Telles, the office administrator for the centre, declined to comment on Monday.

Dr Mor could not be reached for comment.

The two other parents involved in the alleged mix-up wish to remain anonymous and plan a similar lawsuit in the coming days, according to lawyer Adam Wolf, who represents all four parents.

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"The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child, and were terrified she would be taken away from them," the complaint says.

"All the while, Alexander and Daphna did not know the whereabouts of their own embryo, and thus were terrified that another woman had been pregnant with their child - and their child was out in the world somewhere without them."

Mr Wolf, whose firm specialises in fertility cases, called for greater oversight for IVF clinics.

"This case highlights an industry in desperate need of federal regulation," he said.