Hospital to pay for mishandling frozen embryos

The report raised the question of whether it is possible that the two missing embryos were implanted in another woman by accident.

Tel Hashomer (Sheba) Hospital has been ordered to pay NIS 250,000 compensation to a Ra'anana couple after "losing" two of their embryos that were frozen in fertility treatments, reports Yediot Hasharon. But the questions remain of how the two embryos disappeared and where they could be now. According to the report, the Ra'anana couple, now in their 40s, began trying for a child soon after they married some 16 years ago. But when they had difficulty conceiving, they began in-vitro fertilization treatments at the hospital. Doctors succeeded in creating 16 embryos, of which 12 were frozen and four were implanted in the wife in August, 1994. Two of the implanted embryos survived and were born in 1995. Nine years later, when the couple decided they wanted more children, the 12 frozen embryos were thawed out in preparation for implantation - and it was then discovered that two were missing, and that the 10 remaining embryos were all damaged. A hospital spokesman said the doctor in charge of the IVF unit had ordered that two of the embryos not be frozen because they were of poor quality, but his instructions had not been recorded on the medical records, and so it appeared that there should have been 12 embryos and that two were missing. The spokesman also said of the 10 damaged embryos that there was never any guarantee that embryos frozen for nine years would be viable. The couple sued the hospital in the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court last year, saying their shock and suffering had been immense. A judge agreed, saying the hospital had not provided sufficient explanation of why two embryos had not been frozen when specialists had certified that all 12 of the embryos were in good condition prior to freezing. The judge ordered the hospital to pay the couple NIS 100,000, but their lawyers appealed to the district court for greater compensation. The higher court fixed the sum of NIS 250,000 last week. The report raised the question of whether it is possible that the two missing embryos were implanted in another woman by accident, saying that somewhere in Israel there might be two children "of barmitzvah age" who do not resemble their parents. It mentioned a known case in England in which a black child was born to a white couple after IVF treatment. A Kfar Saba IVF doctor said hospitals were very careful about identification and took all possible steps to avoid confusion.