Tuesday, October 6, 2009


In a few cases, laboratory mix-ups (misidentified gametes, transfer of wrong embryos) have occurred, leading to legal action against the IVF provider and complex paternity suits. An example is the case of a woman in California who received the embryo of another couple and was notified of this mistake after the birth of her son. This has led to many authorities and individual clinics implementing procedures to minimise the risk of such mix-ups. The HFEA, for example, requires clinics to use a double witnessing system, where the identity of specimens is checked by two people at each point at which specimens are transferred. Alternatively, technological solutions are gaining favour, to reduce the manpower cost of manual double witnessing, and to further reduce the risk of human error.Technological solutions typically involve tagging individual specimen containers with uniquely numbered RFID tags which can be identified by readers connected to a computer. The computer tracks specimens throughout the process and alerts the embryologist if non-matching specimens are identified.

Another concern is that people will screen in or out for particular traits, using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. For example, a deaf English couple, Tom and Paula Lichy, have petitioned to create a deaf baby using IVF.Some medical ethicists have been very critical of this approach. Jacob Appel wrote that "intentionally culling out blind or deaf embryos might prevent considerable future suffering, while a policy that allowed deaf or blind parents to select for such traits intentionally would be far more troublesome."

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