The University Medical Center in Utrecht (UMC) said the error took place over several months between April 2015 and November 2016, and that half of the women who underwent IVF treatment during that time are either pregnant or have already given birth to their babies. All couples have been informed of the potential mix up, the medical center said.
“During fertilization, sperm cells from one treatment couple may have ended up with the egg cells of 26 other couples,” the center said in a statement, adding that “there’s a chance that the egg cells have been fertilized by sperm other than that of the intended father.” The UMC says the chance of an actual mix up is small, but the possibility “could not be excluded.”
The technique at the center of this mistake is called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and it differs slightly from conventional IVF in that a single sperm cell is injected into a woman’s egg using a pipette. For a period of seven months, a lab technician used a tainted pipette to inject the sperm. While a new pipette was used each time, he failed to replace the rubber top, which was accumulating sperm cells from prior procedures. Given that the UMC conducts about 700 ICSI procedures each year, there is justifiable cause for concern.
All potentially affected couples will be meeting with doctors in the coming days, and will be asked if they want to do a DNA test to determine the father.
Sadly, this sort of thing does happen, but not usually at this scale. Back in 2012, a mother from Singapore sued a clinic after a similar mix up, and in 2014 a white mother in Ohio sued a sperm bank for mixing up her husband’s sperm with an African-American donor. Makes you wonder how often these mistakes happen—and how often nobody notices.
Wrong sperm may have fertilized eggs of 26 Dutch women in IVF mix-up
A Dutch IVF lab has launched an investigation after discovering that up to 26 women may have been fertilised by sperm cells from the wrong man.
The University Medical Centre (UMC) in Utrecht, Netherlands said a “procedural error” between mid-April 2015 and mid-November 2016 was to blame.
Half the women who underwent fertility treatment have become pregnant or already had their babies.
The couples have been informed and the UMC said it “will do everything within its powers to give clarity on the issue as soon as possible”.
In a statement, the centre explained: “During fertilisation, sperm cells from one treatment couple may have ended up with the egg cells of 26 other couples.
“Therefore there’s a chance that the egg cells have been fertilised by sperm other than that of the intended father.”
Although the chance of that happening was small, the possibility “could not be excluded”, the centre added.
“For some of the 26 couples, frozen embryos are still available but the chance remains that they (too) have been fertilised by the sperm from a man other than the intended father,” the UMC said.
In 2012, a mother sued a clinic in Singapore after it mixed up her husband’s sperm with that of a stranger.
Man unknowingly fathers 26 children
A Dutch lab has egg on its face after a major screw-up may have left 26 women fertilized by sperm cells from the wrong man.
Officials at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, Netherlands, chalked the potentially disastrous IVF mishap up to a “procedural error” between mid-April 2015 and mid-November 2016.
“As a result, sperm cells from another couple being treated may have been involved in the fertilization of the ovaries of 26 couples,” the medical institution said in a statement.
“In these cases, there is a chance that the ova have been fertilized by sperm cells from a man other than the intended father.”
The medical center described the chance of the error as “small,” but the reality of the issue “cannot be ruled out.”
All of the couples were notified and half of the women who underwent the IVF treatment have either become pregnant or already gave birth.
The University Medical Centre said it immediately started an investigation to find out how the possible mix-up came about.
The supervisory board for the medical center said it “regrets having to burden the couples involved with this news and everything will be done to provide clarity for everyone as soon as possible.”