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New York Times Follow-Up Story On IVF Facility: “files without vials and vials without files”

 Sarah Robertson, who filed a lawsuit against a sperm bank she said lost her husband’s frozen sperm, outside her home in Leona Valley, Calif., in June. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Sarah Robertson, who filed a lawsuit against a sperm bank she said lost her husband’s frozen sperm, outside her home in Leona Valley, Calif., in June. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

The New York Times Insider Edition just posted a follow-up story on our case against a fertility clinic for misappropriating Sarah Robertson’s deceased husband’s sperm:

The story had a twist that made it especially poignant. Her husband, Aaron Robertson, died of Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disease that carries a 50 percent chance of being passed on to offspring. And Ms. Robertson had reason to worry that the fertility center where she had stored the six precious vials of his sperm had misappropriated them and used them to impregnate, or create embryos for, other women — without warning them of the Marfan risk.

One evening last month, the Robertson family gathered at their Montecito, Calif., home to tell me their story.

For two hours, they took turns: Mr. Robertson’s mother, Karen, talked about discovering that Aaron had Marfan syndrome, the disease that had wreaked havoc with his heart even before it caused him to have a stroke, fall into a coma and die at 29.

Sarah Robertson, who still calls her mother-in-law “Mom” a decade after her husband’s death, told of falling in love with Aaron when she was 16, marrying at 20, and — mostly because she had heard a radio segment about military men who froze their sperm before deploying — thinking to have her husband’s sperm frozen for later use.

“I did everything I could to make sure we could have a baby,” she said. “We always knew we’d have to use in vitro fertilization so the embryos could be tested for Marfan, which has a 50-50 chance of being inherited. But we thought we had time.”

It was a huge blow to learn, when she was finally ready to conceive the baby, that the vials were gone — and that her husband’s sperm might have been used for other women, Ms. Robertson said. Even as she was reeling from the realization that she would never have Aaron’s children, her main impulse was to protect others from her husband’s fate.

“My worst nightmare is that there may be babies and children walking around with Marfan that they got from Aaron, or women getting ready to use his sperm, if they aren’t warned,” said Ms. Robertson.

So she hired a lawyer to try to force the owner of the fertility center, Dr. Peyman Saadat, to send notices to families who had gotten sperm from the center while her husband’s sperm was stored there — and to pay for testing any impacted children and treating any who had Marfan.

There were months of mediation and negotiation, but Dr. Saadat refused to take those steps. Finally, last month, she filed suit….

But an investigator called her back, Ms. Robertson said, and told her, lawyer to lawyer, that the department had previously discovered the center’s abysmal record-keeping. “She told me there were files without vials and vials without files.”

We’d be remiss if we did not point out, again, that these kind of cases are aberrations. The overwhelming majority of IVF facilities have appropriate protocols in place to protect against their patients from this kind of heart wrenching incident. The takeaway from this case is that anyone considering any kind of medical treatment, of any type, ought to conduct their due diligence and select a reputable medical provider. Ignore the glossy websites, unsubstantiated statistics and bus bench advertising. Do your research and make an informed decision.

New York Times: IVF Lab Sued For Giving Infected Sperm To Other Patients

The New York Times has just reported on our lawsuit as well as other troublesome irregularities at sperm banks. It is critically important to keep these cases in context as they are outliers. They do not represent the tip of the iceberg, but rather the bottom of the cesspool:

Even as she mourned the death of her 29-year-old husband from a rare genetic disorder, Sarah Robertson was comforted by knowing that six vials of his sperm were safely stored at the Reproductive Fertility Center — in Tank B, Canister 5, Cane G, Position 6, Color Blue — waiting until she was ready to have the baby they had both longed for.

But 10 years later, when she was ready to use the sperm from her husband, Aaron, she got devastating news. All six vials were missing.

“I’d been completely focused on having something of Aaron’s live on, and now there was nothing,” said Ms. Robertson in an interview at her in-laws’ home in Montecito.

Now she and her in-laws are suing the Los Angeles clinic, and its owner, Dr. Peyman Saadat, accusing them of negligence, fraud, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit, filed in May, also says the clinic misappropriated Mr. Robertson’s sperm — which had a 50 percent chance of carrying Marfan syndrome, the disorder that killed him — and used it to supply other patients who would not know to undergo testing to ensure their babies did not inherit the disorder.

The Robertsons’ case is part of a new wave of lawsuits against sperm banks, highlighting claims of deception and negligence, and adding an array of challenges beyond the longstanding issue of undetected genetic problems….

Dr. Saadat, who was sued by Ms. Robertson, also faces a suit by Justin Hollman, a California man who froze five vials of his sperm before undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer at age 20. Years later, Mr. Hollman wanted his sperm transferred to his wife’s fertility doctor. When he was presented with paperwork, his lawsuit says, he noticed that it authorized the destruction of his sperm instead of the transfer.

After refusing to sign, the court papers say, Mr. Hollman got a call from Dr. Saadat later that day telling him the samples had been destroyed as a result of “human error.”

Mr. Hollman declined to discuss the case, and repeated calls to Dr. Saadat’s center and to his lawyers were not returned.

The Robertsons’ lawsuit also claims there was deception by the center, which on different occasions said the sperm either had never been stored there or had been destroyed in a fire. When Ms. Robertson initially asked for the sperm, according to court papers, the center told her that five of the six vials were missing. The complaint went on to say that Dr. Saadat urged her to try to get pregnant with the sixth vial, but the clinic’s manager later emailed that the sixth vial, too, was gone.

“When I got that email, I stood up and screamed,” said Ms. Robertson, who is a nurse practitioner.

The Robertsons still wonder what sperm Dr. Saadat would have used if Ms. Robertson had agreed to use the purported last vial to get pregnant.

“Was he just going to take someone’s sample at random?” Ms. Robertson asked. “It’s terrifying to imagine a health care business being operated so recklessly.”

Founder of Planet Hospital, Rudy Rupak, Indicted For Theft By Federal Grand Jury

Sadly, no surprise:

The founder of a San Diego-based medical tourism company was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he stole more than $2 million from infertile clients who sought his help in finding surrogacy services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Acharayya Rupak, a Canadian national living in Calabasas, acted as a broker between his Planet Hospital clients and Mexican clinics that provide egg donors, in vitro fertilization and surrogates, according to prosecutors.

According to the indictment, Rupak, 48, pocketed money from American clients that he was supposed to use to pay the clinics for various surrogacy services. The clinics didn’t get their money, and the clients never received the services, the indictment alleges.

“People who seek the help of a surrogate are on an exhausting, expensive and emotional journey,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “They shouldn’t have their dream to have a child trampled by someone they trust to help them.”

Rupak, who made his first court appearance Tuesday, had his bail set at $50,000 and was ordered to return to court July 25.

Medical tourism companies like Planet Hospital facilitate travel to foreign countries to undergo medical procedures such as gastric bypass, organ transplants, tummy tucks or hip replacements at a more affordable price, prosecutors said.

In this case, Rupak acted as an intermediary, connecting U.S. clients with egg donors and in vitro fertilization clinics and surrogates in Mexico. Rupak’s medical tourism business had addresses in San Diego, Calabasas and Calexico.

In 2008, Rupak began offering international surrogacy services, which is the practice of paying a woman to have an embryo transferred to her womb and bear the child for someone else. Beginning in September 2009 and continuing until at least January 2014, Rupak solicited international surrogacy clients, luring them with promises of discounted prices and then hitting them with additional fees later, prosecutors said. He allegedly convinced the clients to send him thousands of dollars by falsely representing that their funds would be put into escrow accounts and used only to pay for medical services.

But according to the indictment, Rupak failed to forward the clients’ funds to service providers such as egg donor companies, IVF clinics and surrogacy services. These companies would then demand additional funds from Rupak’s clients, who had already paid for the services.

To cover up the theft, Rupak allegedly created unauthorized websites and email addresses in the name of a clinic and its physician in order to send emails to Planet Hospital clients, giving excuses for why Planet Hospital had not provided promised services or falsely claiming that surrogacy procedures were unsuccessful.

Rupak lied to his clients about success rates and falsely claimed ownership interest in two IVF clinics in Cancun, Mexico, according to the indictment.

Once the deception started snowballing, Rupak operated his business like a Ponzi scheme, using funds from new clients to pay for services provided to existing Planet Hospital clients, prosecutors allege.

–City News Service

You can read more about Rupak and Planet Hospital in our prior blogging here, here, here and here.

Come Meet Us In Australia If You Are Interested In Surrogacy!

We are heading to the Land Down Under to speak at the Families Through Surrogacy Conference on June 4th and 5th in Brisbane, Australia. We will also be available for private, one-on-one consultations in Melbourne on Thursday, June 2nd and in Sydney on Monday, June 6th.

If you are interested in meeting with our team of professionals for either a meet and greet or private consultation, please email Erick at erick@vmfirm.com.

Look forward to seeing you in Australia!

Nepal Bans Surrogacy, Leaving Hopeful Parents With Few Low-Cost Options

The New York Times takes a look at the dwindling options available to Intended Parents seeking to start a family:

Surrogacy may be the only way for some couples to have biological children by implanting an embryo into a woman who carries the child for them. But many cannot afford the process in developed countries like the United States or Canada and have looked for cheaper options in less-regulated countries like Nepal, India and Thailand. Now, one by one, these nations have shut their doors amid concerns over exploitation of the surrogates, oversight and safety, leaving people of less means without many choices.

You can read the rest of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/world/asia/nepal-bans-surrogacy-leaving-couples-with-few-low-cost-options.html

Lawsuit Imminent After Families Learn Of Sperm Donor’s Failure To Disclose Mental Health Issues

The Toronto Star is reporting that one or more lawsuits will soon be filed against Xytex, a U.S.based sperm bank, alleging fraud and negligent misrepresentation. According to news accounts, at least 26 families have received sperm from Chris Aggeles, now a 39-year-old man from Georgia, who has struggled with schizophrenia, bipolar and narcissistic personality disorders. He also allegedly has served time in jail. The families allege that they were never made aware of this information.

According to the allegations, Mr. Aggeles’ sperm has been used to create 36 children: 19 boys and 17 girls from 26 families. According to the Toronto Star:

Angie Collins opened her laptop one evening in June 2014 to a Facebook message she says “made her heart sink like a lead ball into my stomach.”

It was from a woman in the United States who had used the same sperm donor as she had to get pregnant. They knew each other from an online forum that connects donor-conceived families.

The woman wrote she had learned some unsettling information about their supposedly anonymous donor. He was not the healthy man advertised on his sperm-bank profile. She had discovered he has schizophrenia, a serious mental illness that, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, occurs in 10 per cent of people who have a parent with it.

Collins, mother of a then 6-year-old son, and other moms who used the donor’s sperm frantically took to the Internet in search of information they hoped would disprove the revelation.

Instead, “it just kept getting worse and worse,” she recounts in her first exclusive interview since her case made headlines around the world a year ago.

The donor was nothing like the perfectly healthy man — aside from some colour blindness on his dad’s side — touted on the sperm bank’s website. Nor was he working on a PhD in neuroscience engineering en route to becoming a professor of biomedical robotics at a medical school….

As early as this week, she and her partner, Beth Hanson, intend to file a lawsuit against Xytex from Toronto, Hersh says, noting they have retained local legal counsel. More Canadian families may join the legal action.

As well, Hersh says she intends to file additional lawsuits in the United States on behalf of affected American and British families within the next two months.

Allegations against Xytex, which include fraud and negligent misrepresentation, have not been proven in court and the company denies any wrongdoing.

In a recent email, Xytex lawyer Ted Lavender says the company has been in compliance with industry standards. Xytex will “vigorously defend” itself against any new lawsuits and seek to have them dismissed, he writes, adding that he has no further comment at this time.

California Court Of Appeal Issues Temporary Stay Preventing Father From Moving Triplets Out of State

In a surprise ruling, the California Court of Appeal has just issued a temporary stay, preventing a Georgia father from relocating his children out of California:

Melissa Cook – the California surrogate mom at the center of a custody battle over triplets she delivered last month – has been granted a temporary stay on a Los Angeles Court’s ruling that previously granted custody of her newborn triplets to their biological father. The new development prohibits the father, who is based in Georgia, from removing the children from California.

Per the court’s ruling, the infants will remain in California until a new decision has been made by the court. Cook, a Woodland Hills mother of four, filed lawsuits against the triplets’ biological father, asking for custody of the three baby boys and to have California’s surrogacy law declared unconstitutional.

I’ll have more thoughts on this once the ruling becomes available. Needless to say, this is an unexpected development. However, without the benefit of the court’s full ruling, I’d caution against reading too much into this temporary stay.

What A Dad Does

My son sent me this yesterday. And, of course, I cried.

Thank you, Dad.

Donald Trump: History or Human Nature Repeating Itself?

John Toland said, “[I]t was that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history.”


Washington Post: Donald Trump Presents A Threat To American Democracy

The Washington Post has just eviscerated Donald Trump. I do not think I have ever seen a major newspaper issue an editorial like this:

The editorial concludes with this:

There are some Americans, Democrats in particular, who are happy to watch the Republican Party self-destruct with Mr. Trump at the helm. We cannot share in their equanimity. For one thing, though Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, would be heavily favored, a Trump defeat is far from sure. For another, the country needs two healthy parties and, ideally, a contest of ideas and ideology — not a slugfest of insults and bigotry. Mr. Trump’s emergence already has done grave damage to American civility at home and prestige abroad. The cost of a Trump nomination would be far higher.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump offered what was meant as an argument for his nomination. If he reaches the convention with a lead short of an outright majority, and then fails to win, “I think you’d have riots,” Mr. Trump said. “I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

A democrat disavows violence, a demagogue wields it as a threat. The Republican Party should recognize the difference, and act on it before it is too late.


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Welcome to The Spin Doctor

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