Two California couples gave birth to each others’ babies and spent months raising children that weren’t theirs after a mix-up at the fertility clinic, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday.
Daphna Cardinale said she and her husband, Alexander, were immediately suspicious after the girl she gave birth to in late 2019 had a darker complexion than they do.
However, the couple said they suppressed their doubts because they fell in love with the baby and trusted the IVF process and their doctors.
Months later they learned Daphna had been pregnant with another couple’s baby, and the other woman had carried – and given birth to – her biological daughter.
“I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger, and heartbreak,” Daphna said during a news conference with her husband announcing the lawsuit against the fertility clinic.
“I was robbed of the ability to carry my own child. I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick.”
The Cardinales’ lawsuit accuses the Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH) and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor, of medical malpractice, breach of contract, negligence, and fraud. It demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.
The two other parents involved are planning to file a similar lawsuit in the coming days but wish to remain anonymous, according to the attorney representing all four parents.
Lawyer Adam Wolf – whose firm specializes in fertility cases – said: “This case highlights an industry in desperate need of federal regulation.”
The babies, both girls, were born a week apart in September 2019.
The parents unknowingly raised the wrong child for nearly three months until DNA tests confirmed the mistake. The babies were swapped back in January 2020.
“The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child, and were terrified she would be taken away from them,” the complaint said.
“All the while, Alexander and Daphna did not know the whereabouts of their own embryo, and thus were terrified that another woman had been pregnant with their child – and their child was out in the world somewhere without them.”
Breaking the news to their older daughter, now seven, that doctors made a mistake and that the new baby wasn’t actually her sister “was the hardest thing in my life,” Daphna said.
“My heart breaks for her, perhaps the most,” she said.
Both babies have been returned to their biological families but all four parents have made an effort to stay in each other’s lives and “forge a larger family,” Daphna said.
“They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs,” Alexander said.
Although rare, mix-ups like this are not unprecedented. In 2019, a couple from Glendale, California sued a different fertility clinic, claiming their embryo was mistakenly implanted in a New York woman, who gave birth to their son as well as a second boy belonging to another couple.
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