May 17, 2024

IVF blunder in Singapore

Hi there,

The biggest news of the past week was the
US mid-term elections. The Democrats were routed and surrendered control of the
House of Representatives to the Republicans. This will not transform the
bioethical landscape but it will make embryonic stem cell research more
difficult if scientists are depending on Federal funding.

However, the item which caught my eye was a
brief story about an IVF blunder in Singapore. As usual with such things, the
wrong sperm was used – something the parents detected only when a blood test
showed that the baby had a blood type belonging to neither parent – a sign that
something was gone wrong.

As usual, the medical director of the IVF
clinic apologised but insisted that the centre’s operating procedures
“meet all regulatory requirements, and are of the highest international
standards”. Am I the only one who finds this neither reassuring nor
convincing? Nearly all the IVF blunders which have appeared in the media have
involved racial differences which were very obvious at birth. What about all
the other babies?

Call me a sceptic, but I am not ready to
believe assertions that such incidents are exceedingly rare. How do IVF clinics
know? The only way to confirm the parentage would be to genetically test every
baby. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever proposed that. But wouldn’t
it give parents the certainty that the child is theirs?

What do you think?

Michael Cook