- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Los Angeles couple issued its first public statement Wednesday on its lawsuit against a fertility clinic that implanted their embryo in a stranger who gave birth to the child in New York.

Anni and Ashot Manukyan had to go to court to get their child, in what is widely regarded as the first case of its kind.

The Manukyans are one of three couples who had their embryos swapped by the Los Angeles-based CHA Fertility Clinic, according to the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane.

“CHA robbed me of my ability to carry my own child — my baby boy,” Mrs. Manukyan said Wednesday, bursting into tears.

The CHA Fertility Center could not be reached for comment.

When the Manukyans went to the clinic to undergo in vitro fertilization in August, they believed CHA was transferring their embryos into Mrs. Manukyan’s uterus.

Their complaint filed in a California superior court says they later learned the clinic had used in vitro fertilization to inject a sperm and egg of strangers into Mrs. Manukyan without her knowledge or consent.

Mrs. Manukyan said Wednesday she has no idea who the fertilized egg belonged to and that she did not get pregnant.

Instead, an Asian woman in New York received one of Mrs. Manukyan’s embryos and gave birth to the white couple’s son on March 31.

The New York woman, who has not been named, gave birth to twins who were not related to her or to each other, the complaint says. One of the babies was biologically related to the Manukyans.

It wasn’t until more than six weeks later that the Los Angeles couple got custody of their son. And there’s the possibility that another couple mistakenly received the Manukyans’ other embryo.

“This has been terrible,” Mr. Manukyan said. “CHA put my family through a living hell.”

Adam Wolf, their attorney, described CHA’s misconduct as “extreme and outrageous” and said the lawsuit strives for compensation and accountability.

“No amount of money will ever make this right,” Mr. Wolf said Wednesday at a press conference. “These were Anni and Ashot’s babies.”

“Every step of the way, CHA Fertility has failed Anni and Ashot and these two other couples,” he added.

Eric Widra, chief medical officer for Shady Grove Fertility in Washington, D.C., said that what happened to the Manukyans and others should never happen at a fertility clinic.

“I think it’s incredibly sad and tragic,” Dr. Widra said, calling the allegations against CHA “horrible” if true.

He said clinics should have appropriate standards to avoid errors in laboratory practices and identification. Dr. Widra added that fertility patients should ask about the clinics protocols to safeguard against mistakes, saying that clinics should be able to clearly outline their safeguards.

During in vitro fertilization, mature eggs are fertilized by sperm in a lab. The embryos (fertilized eggs) then are transferred to a uterus.

The use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization has grown over the years.

In 2017, there were 78,052 infants born from ART, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. That year, there were 248,385 ART cycles performed at 448 clinics across the country.

Today, about 1.7% of all babies born in the U.S. each year are conceived using ART, the CDC says.

But Mr. Wolf said there is hardly any oversight of fertility clinics, and he called for more regulation.

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