the fertility advocate

Talking, writing, educating, and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years

I have to say that the it is really getting emotionally exhausting wading through the amount of scandals that have affected patient care and trust in the world of reproductive medicine these days. I go to this place of wondering if I should comment and inform patients that this is going on? Or do I just leave it alone and hope it goes away?  I hate to stir up anxiety – but if patients can’t get this information from patient advocates – where are they suppose to turn? It’s just that so much of what has happened lately has left so many of us with more questions than answers – and very little to offer in the way of reassurance except to say that these cases are rare.

The newest scandal in the world of infertility and reproductive medicine is the story of a California couple who was going back to their clinic to get pregnant and use their frozen embryos.  They were not to be found – and now Alex Walterspiel and Melanie Waters are suing the Santa Monica Clinic and their doctor.

According to ABC News:
“Alex Walterspiel and Melanie Waters conceived their 3-year-old son through in vitro fertilization and hoped to do the same, however, when they returned to the clinic this year, they were told their fertilized embryos were gone, ABC News is reporting.

The couple filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on August 17, claiming that the embryos, harvested and frozen in 2008, were “most likely” implanted in another woman’s womb. The suit alleges that reproductive endocrinologist Dr. John Jain and Santa Monica Fertility failed to “take custody of, care for, and cryo-preserve” their embryos.

The couple is seeking compensation to achieve another pregnancy and $500,000, plus punitive damages for professional negligence, breach of contract, emotional distress and fraud.

The couple’s lawyer, Andrew Vorzimer, says every patient who underwent an IVF cycle with Dr. Jain may be required to have their babies genetically tested to try and figure out what happened to the embryos.

Walterspiel and Waters claim Dr. Jain told them that the straws containing their embryos broke at the bottom of the cryotank and were accidentally destroyed.

“When they asked to see evidence of that, Dr. Jain changed his statement, and said he could not find the straws that contained the three embryos,” Vorzimer told ABC News. The couple also claims the clinic said the tanks could not be searched because it would jeopardize other patients’ embryos.

Dr. Jain did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Embryo mix-ups at fertility clinics are said to be extremely rare.”
This has happened before -  in 2009, the frozen embryos of Shannon and Paul Morell were mistakenly transferred to  Carolyn Savage of Sylvania, Ohio.  Carolyn Savage had to return the baby boy to his biological parents after giving birth. Can you imagine going through this?

Mix ups do happen in hospitals – and important things do get lost. It is not just about embryos and the field of infertility – my sister had a double mastectomy at a very well known hospital in NYC and they lost her nipples that they were going to use in reconstruction!

I have watched eggs leave my body – and embryos being returned to my uterus. I have watched all of the safe guards. The double name checking, the wrist bands, viewing and reading my names of laboratory dishes. And then I prayed.

I know that all patients who trust doctors, nurses, lab personal, IVF Centers, Surrogacy and Egg Donation agencies offer up a tremendous amount of blind faith.  We trust as our genetic materials leaves our bodies that they will be well cared for.  Yes – it is rare when mix ups and misdeeds happen.  Just like airplanes that go up and fly every day and then land safely. We never hear about all of those safe flights. But when a plane crashes – it hits the news and so many of us get frightened to fly.

Should we stop flying? Should you not build your family using assisted reproductive technology?  Well – I wouldn’t stop. Even knowing everything that I know about the world of reproductive medicine – the mishaps that are public and the mishaps that are settle privately. The world of reproductive medicine is as safe as any other field of medicine. But when mistakes happens – it becomes publicity because this field seems to be a lightening rod for media because these mistakes involves making babies. And there is nothing more sacred than that.

All of this is taking a toll not only on the patients that are seeking care and guidance on choosing the safest centers, doctors,  surrogacy and egg donation agencies, but also on the professionals that work in this field.  They are often left tongue tied – trying to come up with reasons why some of this is going on  – and how to comfort prospective patients on choosing safe reputable care.  Lately, it is one of the biggest themes of my fertility coaching practice. Patients around the country coming to me – asking me the question  “Who should I see?”

One of my biggest concerns around all of this is it’s effect on potential surrogates and egg donors. There is a tremendous need for surrogates and egg donors – and many very reputable agencies to support their care.  Surrogacy and egg donation builds families – and there are so many families that are waiting for help in being built.  So please know – that there are agencies that are working very hard to keep the integrity and ethics of the field as high as is humanly possible.

As for the mix ups and scandals? We can only pray that these stories who continue to be as rare as they are – that the children and parents will all land safely – and perhaps one day – the doctors will find my sister nipples.

Resource List:

If you are interested in having a guide, (fertility coach) to support you through becoming a parent through assisted reproductive technologies, or being a surrogate or egg donor – I offer free 15 consultations to  discuss how I can help you. Click here for more information.

If you are thinking about becoming a gestational surrogate or egg donor and want more information please click here.

If you want to learn more about parental agreements and how to keep the family you are building safe - please click here.

Please check out my resource list on the top bar of this website for further family building resources that could be very helpful in your journey.

We all have to look both ways before we cross the street – and then we have to pray that there aren’t any crazy drivers coming around the bend that we just can’t see!



About Pam Madsen
Talking, writing, educating and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years
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Talking, writing, educating, and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years

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