Massachusetts couple says mother was carrying wrong embryo after mix-up in New York clinic
A Massachusetts couple seeking to get pregnant discovered the woman was carrying a stranger’s embryo and is suing their fertility clinic and its staff, including a specialist who was responsible for a similar mix-up in the 1990s.
The woman, known only as Jane Doe, became pregnant in July 2021 after three painful egg retrievals at the New York Fertility Institute, where an entire IVF cycle costs $12,730.
But staff at the Manhattan clinic repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – even as independent, third-party tests showed that there was no DNA match between the couple and the baby, according to a lawsuit filed on March 25 in Manhattan federal court.
The doctor who performed the in-vitro fertilization even suggested the mother may have a rare condition called ‘mosaicism,’ in which two DNAs are present in one body. He allegedly told the couple, ‘This will be an interesting research paper to write.’
The couple terminated the pregnancy on December 1 after suffering from ‘sleepless nights, nightmares, fatigue, stress headaches and uncontrollable crying’ and the prospect that the child’s real parents would kick off a drawn-out court battle to get their child back.
The clinic is now under investigation by the New York State Department of Health.
The clinic’s embryologist, Michael Obasaju, previously admitted that he gave the wrong embryos to a New Jersey couple in 1998, according to the New York Times. The white mother in that case eventually gave birth to two babies, one white and one black, and was ordered to give the black child to his biological parents by a state Supreme Court judge.
Had they known about that, the couple says they would’ve never sought out the clinic’s services.
A Massachusetts couple is suing a New York fertility clinic, Michael Obasaju (above) and two other staff members after she discovered she had been implanted with the wrong embryo
The unidentified couple sought the fertility clinic’s services in 2020. Above, the clinic’s exterior in Manhattan
The Massachusetts woman allegedly underwent various tests that showed there was no match between her and the baby, all the while the clinic and staff insisted the baby was theirs
The Massachusetts couple in the latest case were trying for their fourth child.
The woman underwent three invasive and painful egg retrievals in October 2020, January 2021 and April 2021, according to the lawsuit.
They are suing the NYFI and three of its staff members, including Obasaju, for malpractice, breach of contract, fraudulent concealment, emotional distress and battery, among other claims. They are asking for unspecified damages.
Dr. Khalid Sultan performed an embryo transfer procedure on the couple, which involves taking a fertilized egg and placing it in a woman’s uterus, on July 2, 2021.
‘As the Does later learned, however, their embryo was not actually transferred to Ms. Doe that day. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the embryo that Sultan transferred into Ms. Doe’s uterus belonged to a stranger,’ the lawsuit states.
‘To this day, the Does neither know whose embryo was transferred into Ms. Doe’s uterus, nor the location of the embryo that NYFI was supposed to transfer to Ms. Doe on July 7, 2021.’
The woman’s OBGYN in Massachusetts recommended that she have her blood drawn and sent to a lab for a ‘panorama’ screening in order to determine the chance of chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.
The woman underwent three painful egg retrievals costing at least $13,000 at the Upper East side clinic (above). She and her husband were trying for their fourth child
While the couple agonized about the fact that they were carrying someone else’s child, Dr. Khalid Sultan, who performed the fertilization, told them, ‘This will be an interesting research paper to write,’ according to a lawsuit filed by the couple last month
On September 9, the result came back: ‘No results due to uninformative (suspect nonmatching) maternal/fetal DNA patterns. Possible reasons for uninformative DNA patterns include but are not limited to; egg donor, surrogate pregnancy, bone marrow transplantation.’
She called the New York Fertility Institute and Dr. Sultan, who assured her that it was a ‘lab error’ and that she ‘shouldn’t be concerned.’
The second ‘panorama’ screening came back with the same results on October 13.
She finally got a hold of Dr. Sultan after multiple calls and text messages. He told her that they ‘could not have transferred the wrong embryo because [Ms. Doe] was the only implant that entire week.’
He directed them to contact a genetic counselor at Invitae.
‘Sultan failed to disclose that there was no way to know from the documents provided to Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe whether NYFI’s embryologist mixed up the samples sent to Invitae for testing with those from another couple,’ he said.
‘Nor did he disclose at this time that there might be other explanations involving a mistake at NYFI.’
At one point, as the couple continued to share their horror and anguish that they might be carrying a stranger’s child, Sultan told them that ‘all that matters is that you have a healthy baby’ and ‘this will be an interesting research paper to write,’ according to the lawsuit.
Sultan also ordered tests on the rare condition mosaicism, hoping that would answer the discrepancy, but they came back negative.
The woman underwent an amniocentesis procedure on October 25 to confirm the paternity. Before the results came back, Dr. Majid Fateh of the clinic continued to reassure the couple that the baby was theirs.
The results proved that Mr. and Mrs. Doe were not the biological parents in late November.
The lawsuit states: ‘Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe did not know what to do. They had grown to love this baby, who had already begun kicking. On the one hand, they did not want to lose her even if she was not genetically related to them.
‘On the other hand, they could not imagine carrying a stranger’s baby to term, only to potentially lose her in later legal battles to her biological parents, which would be devastating to the entire family. Additionally, the Does were also haunted by the idea that the Defendants lost one or more of their embryos.’
They eventually decided to terminate the pregnancy on December 1, as the woman was nearing the end of the second trimester and coming up against the legal deadline for abortions.
The lawsuit claims the clinic and its staff are all defendants in a different pending lawsuit alleging that the clinic mistakenly transferred a ‘special circumstances’ embryo into a woman’ s uterus instead of the healthy embryo that was selected for transfer. The clinic allegedly ‘lost’ the healthy embryo for 18 months.
The clinic is now under investigation.
‘The New York State Department of Health views these most recent allegations about Dr. Obasaju and the New York Fertility Institute with the utmost concern,’ the department said in a statement.
The couple names embryologist Michael Obasaju in their lawsuit against the clinic and its staff.
Obasaju has been the director of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and andrology and hormones laboratories at the clinic since 1997, according to the clinic’s website.
He has a Ph.D in comparative pathology and a master’s in veterinary medicine, but is not a medical doctor.
Obasaju was fired from a different clinic, NY IVF, after New Jersey couple Donna and Richard Fasano gave birth to a child that wasn’t theirs in 1998.
Donna and Richard Fasano (center and right) were given the wrong embryo by Michael Obasaju, who is now being sued by a Massachusetts couple, in 1998
The couple eventually had to give up the baby that wasn’t theirs to his biological parents. They were also denied visitation rights by a judge
Donna Fasano, a white woman, was implanted with the wrong embryos and gave birth to a white baby boy and a black baby boy, who was eventually returned to parents Deborah Perry-Rogers and Robert Rogers after a court battle for custody.
Obasaju told investigators that he mixed up the two couple’s embryos as he was testing them for viability.
He reportedly placed four of Rogers’ ‘lower grade embryos’ into a catheter used by Dr. Lillian D. Nash, the physician who performed the procedures, ‘by accident,’ according to the New York Times.
He confessed the mistake after learning that Mrs. Fasano was pregnant.
Mrs. Perry-Rogers did not become pregnant. Eventually, she won custody to her child, which was birthed by Mrs. Fasano, who was later denied visitation rights, the Times reported at the time.
‘The Department of Health previously cited IVF New York and Lillian D. Nash, M.D. in 1999 for multiple violations of state regulations pertaining to Dr. Obasaju’s involvement in an embryo transfer,’ the department said Sunday. ‘At that time, the Department required the IVF New York to develop and implement corrective actions.’