- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

LONDON A British woman has given birth to the twins of a stranger as the result of a mix-up at a government-run in vitro fertilization clinic, prompting an outcry against the country's National Health Service.

The woman, who is white and cannot be identified because of legal reasons, is reported to have declared her intention to keep the children, who are black, saying she "bonded with them" during the pregnancy.

But newspapers here see the potential for a precedent-setting legal battle.

A source at the fertility clinic where the mix-up occurred told Britain's top-circulation tabloid, the Sun, "It is something that we have dreaded happening all along, and now it has. It is an absolute nightmare for all concerned."

Leading sex-selection specialist Dr. Alan Rose said the dream of parenthood need never have turned sour if the clinic had used disposable equipment, a safeguard used by two private clinics that he once supervised.

The former medical adviser to the London Gender Clinic and the Hong Kong-based Gender Choice Center said they had always used disposable equipment.

"When prospective parents have asked us if there's any chance of getting the wrong baby, we tell them, 'No, because we use disposable test tubes and we never have two samples of sperm on the premises at the same time.'"

An insufficiently cleaned test tube was found to be the cause of a similar incident in the Netherlands. Wilma Stuart, 40, had one black and one white twin in 1993. It took a year before DNA tests proved that a hospital had mixed sperm from Mrs. Stuart's husband with that of a black man from the Netherlands Antilles.

But today's case is the first case of its kind at a British fertility clinic.

The white parents were among the 27,000 couples a year who use the test-tube-baby procedure for free in the National Health Service. Others pay $4,500 at private clinics.

The case could make legal history if it gets to court.

The Sun quoted a legal expert as saying: "If it is the sperm of a black man which has been mixed with the white woman's eggs, he could claim to be the biological father."

In 1993, two women took legal action after having abortions when they discovered they had been implanted with the wrong embryos.

And two years ago, frozen embryos belonging to 80 couples were reported to have disappeared from a clinic in central England.

A third case of a black child being born to a white mother was reported in New York four years ago. An embryo mix-up at the clinic was blamed, but a judge ruled that the child had to be handed over to its biological parents.


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