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Australian couple sue over embryo test 'failure'

Antony Blackburn-Starza

Progress Educational Trust

26 March 2008

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[BioNews, London] An Australian couple has launched an action in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the health services involved in an embryo testing procedure, after the mother gave birth to a boy instead of a girl. The couple had undergone IVF and PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) at Melbourne IVF to enable doctors to select only female embryos to be re-implanted in an attempt to avoid haemophilia, an inherited disorder that only affects males. Instead, the mother gave birth to a baby boy, Jess, who doctors later confirmed is affected by the blood clotting condition.

The couple are alleging that in no point during the pregnancy were they informed that the child was not a girl, and are now seeking compensation and damages to pay for the child's care costs and other losses they will incur. If the couple had been informed of the true sex of their child, they say they would have considered terminating the pregnancy. It is reported that the defendants will contest the action on the grounds that the couple did not make inquiries as to the sex of their child after ultra-sound scans and that the boy may have been conceived naturally.

Sex selection is permitted in Victoria only to reduce the risk of a serious genetic condition being passed to the child. The couple opted for the procedure to avoid passing on hameophilia, which also affects the boy's uncle. 'By choosing the IVF procedure, we hoped to never see a child suffer in this way again', the parents told reporters. 'At no stage did we want a designer baby, we just wanted a healthy baby.'

'We love our little boy, but we are very sorry he has to go through so much in his life', the couple said. 'We tried everything to avoid this situation, and now our boy has to go through all the pain and treatment in order to survive. We now face the fact that Jess will require treatment for the rest of his life'.

The action is being taken against Melbourne IVF, Ballarat Health Services, the couples' obstetrician and Bendigo Radiology. In documents lodged with the court, lawyers for Melbourne IVF say that a counsellor told the couple in 2003 that there was a risk of misdiagnosis with the PGD method. They also claim the couple signed consent forms, including one that stated 'If a pregnancy is achieved from biopsied embryos, we understand that further diagnostic tests are recommended to confirm the early embryo diagnosis'. No date has been set for the trial.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 26 March 2008   Date Updated: 26 March 2008
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