Embryo mix-ups are rare, but when these happen, the result can be ugly lawsuits, custody battles, and sadly, even abortion.

6 shocking IVF mix-ups from around the world Main

Thanks to modern science, procedures such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), have given couples struggling to conceive a glimmer of hope about realising their dreams of starting or expanding their family.


Since Louise Brown, the first baby to be born via artificial insemination in 1978, 6.5 million babies have entered the world, thanks to this procedure. And while IVF has come a long way since it was first medically-approved, it is still a harsh and often heartbreaking journey.


It’s the ultimate test of resilience for hopeful and desperate couples, who gamble with their health, finances ― and many times ― sanity. They are literally putting their fate in the hands of medical professionals who only give them a 40 to 60 per cent chance at success.


And after all that hard work and investment, it’s every couple’s ultimate fear that the procedures might not work. However, IVF can also fail them in many other ways because, after all, this man-man medical procedure is vulnerable to human error.


Scroll through the photo gallery to find out which were the biggest IVF blunders to have made headlines around the world over the years. 


Main photo: iStock

#1 Singapore

In 2012, a Chinese Singaporean woman and her Caucasian permanent resident husband filed a negligent suit against Thomson Medical Centre. Their complaint: During a routine IVF procedure, the woman’s egg had been fertilised with the wrong man’s sperm. The couple, who also have a son, had conceived via an IVF procedure and she subsequently gave birth to a girl. However, when the baby was born, the couple noticed her complexion was noticeably different from theirs. The baby’s blood type was also incompatible with mum and dad, which reinforced their suspicion. A DNA test revealed that while the baby was biologically the woman’s, it was not the husband’s. Further investigation revealed that the embryologist on duty had been processing semen specimens of two individuals at the same workstation concurrently. What was even more baffling was that the embryologist had reused the pipette used for transferring the specimen, instead of discarding it after each step, according to protocol. The lawsuit saw the woman seeking monetary damages for the baby’s upkeep, which was denied by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The case is still pending resolution. (Photo: DocDoc) 

#2 New York State, USA

In 1998, a white American woman gave birth to twin boys. However, it wasn’t a cause of celebration as one baby was white and the other black. The woman, who is of Italian decent, had undergone an embryo transfer at a fertility clinic the same day as a black couple. Because the pipette hadn’t been properly flushed between transfers, an embryo from the black couple ended up in the white woman. Only the white woman became pregnant. The couples had initially agreed to share custody of the black kid, but a custody battle ensued ― the black couple won when they played the genetics card. (Photo: iStock) 

#3 Ohio, USA

After having two kids naturally, Carolyn Savage of Ohio and her husband, Sean, struggled with secondary infertility for a decade. The couple later welcomed a third baby via IVF. However, that treatment left the Savages with extra embryos, so they decided to try for a fourth kid. In a cruel twist of fate, 10 days after it was implanted, the Savages were told that due to a medical error, the foetus Carolyn was carrying actually belonged to Paul and Shannon Morell. Paul and Shannon, who already had twin girls, were afraid Carolyn might want to terminate the pregnancy, but to their surprise, the pregnant mum carried the Morells’ biological baby to term for them. Carolyn handed the baby boy to his biological parents after a C-section in 2009. The Savages, who went on to write a book about their experience, went on to have twin girls via surrogate. In 2014, they also welcomed their sixth child, a boy, who was conceived the old-fashioned way. (Photo: Carolyn & Sean Savage Instagram)

#4 California, USA

In August 2004, Susan Buchweitz, a single mum, was awarded US$1 million dollars for the most outrageous IVF mix-up case in history. Not only was the wrong embryo implanted in Buchweitz, the fertility clinic hid their mistake until her baby was almost 10 months old. What was so shocking was that the person who had handled the embryos realised the mistake within minutes of Buchweitz’s IVF procedure, but the clinic kept mum about the mix-up. The Medical Board of California, acting on an anonymous complaint by a former fertility centre worker, alerted Buchweitz about the mistake. The embryo that Buchweitz carried had actually been intended for a married couple who had had their IVF the same day, using the husband’s sperm and a donor egg. The couple, who gave birth to a girl 10 days after Buchweitz did, tried to seek full custody of their son, whom Buchweitz had been raising as her own since birth. (Photo: iStock) 

#5 Wales, UK

In June 2009, a Cardiff couple were told that their last remaining frozen embryo had been mistakenly used in another woman’s IVF procedure. What was even more devastating was that when the woman found out she was pregnant with another couple’s child, she aborted the foetus. (Photo: iStock) 

#6 Great Britain, UK

In another case of “wrongful implantation”, a white British couple, now famously known as Mr and Mrs A, underwent IVF in 2002 and had twins. However, at birth, both babies turned out black. Till today, it is still unclear when the mix-up happened. According to the Journal of Medical Ethics, either a white woman’s eggs were fertilised with the black man’s sperm, or the black couple’s embryo had been mistakenly implanted in the white woman. Mr and Mrs A were keen to keep the babies, but unfortunately, so was the black couple. In the end, the white couple won after citing Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which stipulates that the woman carrying the baby to term and delivering it is the baby’s legal mother. This law doesn’t take into consideration whether the implanted egg is biologically hers or not. (Photo: iStock)