Many assume that people the world over who are undergoing fertility treatment are drawn to the United States because of our medical facilities and the quality of our providers. And, while that may be part of the reason, recent cases have shown another that is vastly more insidious: our lack of regulation over the industry. And that lack of regulation may be starting to take its toll.
A 2020 study showed over 130 lawsuits filed between 2010 and 2020 over lost, discarded, or otherwise damaged and unusable embryos. And while that number may seem high, it likely only scratches the surface since it fails to account for the number of errors made by fertility clinics that did not result in legal action or were settled before they culminated in an actual lawsuit.
For those that do result in having to take legal action, the pain of reliving the events of the past and revisiting the pain and devastation of realizing what had happened can be almost too much to bear. A recent New York Times story tells the tale of Dr. Elaine Meyer and Dr. Barry Prizant, a New England couple who discovered that a fertility clinic had lost two of their embryos decades after giving birth to a son in 1996. A vial containing two of their embryos was discovered at the bottom of a freezer and the couple was sent a letter demanding $500 to keep the embryos in cold storage or risk having them discarded.
The Washington Post tells the story of a California couple who, after multiple attempts to bring a baby of their own into the world, gave birth to another couple’s infant while someone else gave birth to theirs just a week apart. While the couples first tried to have visitation dates with their own biological children, the stress of the situation became too difficult to bear over time and they eventually committed to a trade. “Our memories of childbirth will always be tainted by the sick reality that our biological child was given to someone else,” said the mother in the California case, “and the baby I fought to bring into this world was not mine to keep.”