As I continue to try to wrap my head around this distressing story out of India, I am left with more questions than answers. How could the clinic have transferred the wrong patients’ embryos in the first place? What types of protocols and safeguards are in place to ensure that embryos are not commingled, lost or mislabeled? How is it possible that after the transfer, subsequent inventories did not detect an error? What steps, if any, did the IVF clinic take to determine whose genetic material was used? How is it possible that the Indian government has not stepped in to investigate the practices of these IVF clinics? What steps, if any, should foreign governments take to protect their citizens from proceeding with what appears to be a shoddily regulated medical tourism industry in India?
These are just a few questions that should trouble anyone considering assisted reproduction in India. We already know the turmoil one family is now going through in an admirable effort to adopt a child that the IVF facility wanted to discard to an orphanage. But what about the genetic parents? What steps have been taken to let them know that they have a child? I have represented numerous clients who abandoned any dream of having a child after repeated failures in India. What if this baby is their genetic offspring and they could still realize their dream of becoming parents? What about all the genetic brothers and sisters this baby may have and will never know? What kind of birth story will “Lisa” and her husband tell their child if they are successful in their adoption?
But perhaps the most unsettling question of all is how many other parents around the world, who availed themselves of IVF services in India, are now unwittingly raising children that are not genetically related to them? Keep in mind that the only reason “Lisa” learned that her baby was not genetically related to her husband was because a DNA test is now required in order to obtain a passport to leave India in addition to establishing the baby’s American citizenship. Setting aside those that have traveled to India to work with a surrogate, what about the tens of thousands of patients who have traveled to India to take advantage of the significant cost savings and underwent IVF without a gestational carrier? In those situations, there would have been no need to conduct a DNA test as the women would have given birth in their home country. How many of these patients had the wrong embryos transferred into them?