Womens Health

Lost Embryos

Clare and Gareth have been trying to have a baby for eight years. Now, the couple is taking legal action against an IVF clinic based in Wales which lost two of their embryos. Staff at IVF Wales, an IVF clinic located at the Cardiff, Wales University Hospital told the couple they'd lost their embryos just prior to the embryo transfer part of the complicated and expensive IVF procedure. The clinic was highlighted only last year over another IVF blunder in which it implanted one couple's last embryo into the womb of another patient.

Embryo Loss

But a spokesman for the clinic said this type of embryo loss is a common complication that occurs during embryo vitrification. In vitrification, embryos are frozen in a solution of liquid nitrogen for storage. The embryos are thawed as needed for implantation procedures.

The case comes to light just as the BBC5 Live show aired figures suggesting that fertility clinic errors in England and Wales had just about doubled during the past year.

In an interview, Clare told the BBC's Donal Macintyre how it happened. "I was sat there, gowned up, waiting to go in and have a transfer. They said you've got one embryo remaining; the other two embryos have gone missing. They said in the next sentence, 'I can assure you they haven't gone into anyone else.'"

Potential Babies

Clare added, "Those were two potential babies."

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, which is responsible for running the clinic, compensated a Bridgend couple only last year, after the clinic transferred the last viable embryo of Deborah Hole and Paul Thomas into the wrong woman's uterus. Hole and Thomas had been hoping to give their son Jamie a sibling. An investigation conducted at that time found serious problems in the way the clinic conducts its work.

Guy Forster, a lawyer representing Clare and Gareth says he has been hired by 12 couples with similar issues arising from misdeeds encountered at various clinics in Wales over the past year. "I am deeply concerned that the same clinic finds itself yet again at the center of a serious incident," said Forster. "The second error involving Clare and Gareth's embryos appears to have occurred just seven months after the first serious incident relating to Paul and Deborah's embryo. The incident followed two previous near miss incidents and concerns raised in inspections of the clinic."

Challenging Process

But the medical director for the Health Board, Dr. Chris Jones said, "IVF Wales has a success rate of 99.5% in recovering embryos using this complex and technically challenging process, which involves arranging embryos smaller than a full stop on a special cryo leaf, and freezing them by plunging them into liquid nitrogen. The embryos are subsequently thawed. Unfortunately, the loss of embryos during this process is a known complication and the risk of failure is explained to every patient undergoing the procedure."

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