Columnist: Sometimes it’s not wise to mess with Mother Nature

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2016

Increasingly, we’re hearing about couples totally in love, who must face the fact that they will be unable to have children unless they seek assisted reproduction services. In the United States, obtaining such services can be very expensive and cost a couple in excess of more than $30,000.

A couple in Warsaw, Poland, found themselves in just such a position. Discovering that they needed to seek assisted reproductive services in order to have children, the couple went through in vitro fertilization. To their delight, the process was successful and, in August 2014, they were blessed with a newborn baby girl.

Unfortunately, their happiness was short-lived. The baby she conceived by IVF was not her biological child. It was discovered that the husband’s sperm had been used to conceive the baby, but not her egg.

The couple, who had tried unsuccessfully, twice at a private facility, were finally successful at a public hospital where taxpayers there absorb the cost of IVF. The only satisfaction the couple received, regrettably, was in knowing that the public hospital was fined the equivalent of $21,000 — the maximum allowed by law — for a mistake that would change their lives forever.

A medical travesty

In 1995, an event that traumatically changed the lives of a Florida couple forever, initially was an event that brought them their greatest joy: The successful birth of their twin babies.

Like many couples, they wanted children so badly that they sought IVF from a local hospital, which allegedly assured accurate identification of all samples and specimens used in the services. After careful consideration, they decided that maybe IVF could, in fact, solve their problem.

As a result of the fertilization process, the couple was told that they could expect twins. Things were going well until the wife experienced prenatal complications and difficulties. After going through amniocentesis, the couple was assured that the fetuses were still normal and healthy. This was not necessarily the truth.

A medical mix up – not their twins

When she gave birth to the twins, it was apparent that something was wrong. It was discovered by DNA and blood tests performed after the birth of the twins that the husband was definitely not their biological father. The couple was enraged! They were very concerned — and rightfully so — about any legal rights the real father would have concerning the children.

The medical catastrophe appeared to have also been the contributing factor in destroying their marriage that possibly could’ve been salvaged were it not for the mistake. On her own behalf, the wife is suing the hospital, alleging that she had been deprived the opportunity to bear children with her husband, and that she had suffered financially – bearing sole legal responsibility for the children – and emotionally.

The husband sued the hospital, claiming that his sperm specimen had been wrongly misappropriated, and shockingly, may therefore, be the biological father of unknown children.

The results

The hospital ultimately entered into a confidential settlement with the couple. The courts agreed that a family was literally devastated and destroyed because of the mistakes of the medical personnel involved in the fertilization procedures.

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the primary organization of professionals dedicated to the practice of IVF, or assisted reproductive technology, in a recent report states that since its introduction in the United States in 1981, IVF and similar techniques have resulted in the successful births of more than 200,000 babies.

As a point of reference, Israel provides unlimited in vitro fertilization procedures for up to two of the procedures each year, becoming essentially, one of the busiest fertilization sites in the world.

It is obvious that IVF has been a godsend to many, who in some instances, might not experience the pleasure of giving birth to their own child. Sometimes, however, it is just not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

What do you think?

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Dr. Glenn Dowell, a LaGrange native, is an author and columnist who lives in Georgia. He has been an instructor at Texas Southern University, guest speaker on major college campuses and appeared on TV programs including ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ He may be reached at