A Los Angeles woman and her husband sued a fertility clinic Monday for negligence and medical malpractice, alleging that she gave birth to the wrong child after doctors implanted a stranger's embryo into her body during an in vitro fertilization treatment.
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale contend that the California Center for Reproductive Health and Dr. Eliran Mor "recklessly, negligently, and/or knowingly lost or actively decided" to give the couple's embryos to another couple, "while implanting the wrong embryo in Daphna,'' according to the suit filed in Superior Court.
A representative of the clinic in Encino declined comment. Mor could not be reached.
According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, when the Cardinales first saw their healthy newborn daughter, one of the first things they noticed was that, unlike the rest of their family, the baby had a much darker complexion and jet-black hair.
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“Genetic testing revealed that the baby Alexander and Daphna delivered and raised for months was not genetically related to them,” according to the couple's attorneys. "Their baby was the biological child of complete strangers.”
The couples eventually switched babies, the suit states.
The lawsuit names CCRH, Beverly Sunset Surgical Associates, In VitroTech Labs, Inc., and Mor, who is CCRH's medical director.
Unbeknownst to the Cardinales at the time, Mor was also the owner of In VitroTech Labs, "and was engaged in self-dealing from one company to the other,'' the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint seeks to recover emotional damages, compensatory and property damages, and various costs, while also demanding a jury trial.
IVF is a procedure during which eggs are fertilized by sperm in a lab before being implanted in a woman's uterus.
“Going through IVF is a very painful process physically and emotionally, involving injections, hormone treatments, blood tests, countless office visits, and even surgery,'' Daphna Cardinale said in a statement released by the family's lawyer.
“We came to it with incredible vulnerability and trust in our doctor and in the process. We had no idea, at the time, that this greatest potential for joy would bring us such enduring pain and trauma. After discovering the truth of what had happened to our family, I was overwhelmed with fear, betrayal, anger, and heartbreak. It was torture that shook me to my core and forever changed who I am.”
According to the suit, the other couple also carried to term and gave birth to a baby girl -- the Cardinales' biological child -- and raised her for months before the mistakes were uncovered and proven.
As a result of the errors, the Cardinales did not even know of their biological daughter's existence until she was three months old, the plaintiffs allege.
“Another month passed before they would finally bring her home for good,” the couple's attorneys said. “Meanwhile, they were forced to give up forever the daughter whom Daphna carried to term and with whom their whole family had irrevocably bonded. The long-term consequences of this baby swap continue to haunt their entire family.”
The Cardinales’ “pain and fear have not abated with their reunion with their daughter,” according to their lawyers, who allege that both the couple and their older daughter have suffered “life-changing emotional damages necessitating continuing mental-health treatment'' and severe physical-health problems.