February 25, 2024

Mix-up becomes TV drama

Mix-ups in IVF clinics are in the UK media again, with the screening this week of a docu-drama, “Born with two mothers”, on Channel 4. It is loosely based on a 2002 incident in which a white woman gave birth to black twins after IVF treatment. The program uses professional actors along with industry professionals who play themselves.

One of these is Dr John Parsons, the lead consultant for the assisted conception unit at King’s College Hospital, in London. He believes that such mistakes are rare but acknowledges that they do happen. “Every time I see people bring their babies back — and we all do exactly the same thing — I look at the baby, look at the parents and say, ‘Yippee, we got it right.'”

In the wake of the 2002 incident, the UK’s fertility regulator introduced tighter rules to ensure that a similar calamity would never happen. But Dr Parsons is sceptical. “It slows everything down,” he says. “And it means you have to have people watching everything you do, which means double the staff. There’s even the argument about whether this will help, because if you have someone else watching and don’t take full responsibility yourself, you might even make more mistakes. As far as I know, there is no hard data to show that it reduces the number of mistakes, but there is a logic to believing it might.”