Embryo mix-up couple to launch custody battle

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The embryo mix-up happened at the Sandro Pertini hospital in Rome. IVF photo: Shutterstock
13:56 CEST+02:00
The genetic parents of embryos mistakenly implanted in another woman plan to take legal action in a bid to gain custody over the twins. The unprecedented case will likely be a “long, drawn-out” battle, one of the lawyers involved told The Local.

In a case that exposed serious flaws in the Italian medical system, an Italian woman became pregnant with the embryos of another couple following an IVF blunder at a hospital in Rome last December.

The genetic parents, who have not been named, were identified through DNA tests in April.

READ MORE HERE: Italy embryo mix-up: real parents identified

The mix-up, which was possibly due to the similarity in surnames of the two couples, happened on December 4th, when four different couples were receiving treatment at a specialist fertility unit at the Sandro Pertini hospital.

Four women underwent fertility treatment at the hospital that day to have viable embryos implanted, three of whom became pregnant as a result of the procedure. The biological parent's own IVF pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

Although Italian law stipulates that whoever gives birth to the child is the mother, the couple has pledged to fight the case “at all the legal levels”.

“My wife and I can’t accept the idea of being separated from our children,” the twins’ biological father told La Stampa.

“How will the other couple explain to them that they are really our children?”

The newspaper reported that the couple has decided to take the case to court, although Michele Ambrosini, the lawyer representing the pregnant woman, told The Local he has yet to be notified of the case.

“It’s difficult to say what the outcome of this will be, as there hasn’t been a precedent case,” Ambrosini said.

"Either way, it will be very difficult and distressing for both couples."

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Lorenzo D'Avack, the vice president of Italy's national bioethics committee, was quoted in the Italian press in April as saying that even if the pregnant woman was in agreement, legal claims would be “useless”.

He suggested the most viable solution would be for the couples to agree to an “extended family” situation, in which all parents are involved in the childrens' upbringing.

“But how could [such a solution] be possible?”, the genetic father asked in the interview with La Stampa published on Tuesday.

“And how could such a decision be taken lightly? The twins are our children and we want them to be registered as so. Otherwise, being apart from us, how wil they ever be at peace?”

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