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White woman has black twins after clinic mistake

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

17 July 2002

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[BioNews, London] An accident at a fertility clinic has resulted in a white women giving birth to black twins. Although such a mistake has occurred in other countries, this is believed to be the first case of its kind in the UK.

The exact nature of the error has not been disclosed, though it is thought possible that sperm from a black man was used to fertilise the woman's egg, or that a black couple's fertilised egg was implanted into the wrong woman during IVF procedures. Neither the clinic, the NHS trust, or either of the couples involved can be named, as the High Court has issued a strict injunction against this.

It is believed that the white woman and her partner want to keep the twins, but legal action may have to be taken in order to decide who the legitimate parents are. Under the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the woman who gave birth to the twins will be the legal mother and, if she is married, her husband will be recognised as the legal father. However, this could be challenged by the genetic father. It is thought that a court hearing on the
parenthood issue has been scheduled for October, but both couples may also have actions in negligence against the clinic who carried out the IVF procedure.

The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched an inquiry into the matter. This is likely to concentrate on how carefully samples were labelled and stored at the clinic in question. Many fertility specialists have spoken to the media about the situation, admitting that human errors are possible. Many have called for greater government funding of the HFEA as one way to help prevent mistakes in the future.

© 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: 17 July 2002   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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