Fertility Doc Screw-Up Leads Woman to Abort at 6 Months, Suit Says

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/NY Fertility Institute
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/NY Fertility Institute

A woman who was almost six months pregnant had an abortion after she learned that her fertility doctor gave her a stranger’s embryo—some two decades after he allegedly did the same thing to another woman, according to a federal lawsuit.

In the complaint filed this week in Manhattan, the woman and her husband say they could have terminated the pregnancy earlier but the clinic, New York Fertility Institute, kept giving them the runaround and insisting there was no mistake, even after DNA tests proved otherwise.

The mixup is all the more shocking, the lawsuit says, because in the late 1990s, NYFI’s embryologist Michael Obasaju implanted the wrong embryo in a different patient, resulting in a white woman giving birth to one white baby and one Black baby.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Dr. Michael Obasaju </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/NY Fertility Institute</div>

Dr. Michael Obasaju

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/NY Fertility Institute

“The Defendants have a history of mixing up, mislabeling, and/or outright losing their patients’ genetic material,” the couple in the current suit, referred to as Mr. and Ms. Doe, charged.

One of the moms in the earlier case, Donna Fasano, told the New York Post, which first reported the suit, that “all I can say is my heart goes out” to the couple in the more recent mixup. NYFI did not respond to a request for comment.

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The Does say their nightmare began with a phone call to NYFI on April 28, 2020, that led to three egg retrievals and a successful IVF procedure in July 2021.

Ms. Doe’s obstetrician recommended genetic testing to rule out chromosomal abnormalities, and the couple was stunned when the results that came back suggested she had used a donated egg instead of her own.

“This result did not make sense, since Ms. Doe was supposed to be carrying her own embryo,” the suit says.

According to the complaint, NYFI repeatedly told the Does that there was no way embryos could have gotten mixed up, even after repeated testing showed the same results. At one point, it alleges, the clinic said the mother must have “mosaicism”—an extremely rare condition in which someone had two forms of DNA.

By now it was October 2021 and the increasingly confused couple decided to have an amniocentesis to settle the matter. “The procedure was humiliating, stressful and physically excruciating for Ms. Doe,” the suit says.

“Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe had to wait nearly a month before they received results of the DNA tests, all the while suffering the physical and emotional toll of the stress of the situation, including sleepless nights, nightmares, fatigue, stress headaches and uncontrollable crying.”

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The results of the amnio made it official: the fetus inside Ms. Doe was not genetically related to her or her husband.

“Plaintiffs did not know how to process this information. They were upset and overwhelmed with panic and confusion. They were devastated,” the lawsuit says.

“Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe did not know what to do. They had grown to love this baby, who had already begun kicking. On the one hand, they did not want to lose her even if she was not genetically related to them. On the other hand, they could not imagine carrying a stranger’s baby to term, only to potentially lose her in later legal battles to her biological parents, which would be devastating to the entire family.”

When they tried to get further information from the clinic, they were stonewalled. Meanwhile, the deadline for having a legal abortion was fast approaching.

“Ultimately, Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe had to make the most traumatic decision of their lives. On December 1, 2021, Ms. Doe terminated the pregnancy,” the suit says.

“Immediately after the termination, Ms. Doe experienced sharp uterine pains and achiness in addition to a large amount of bleeding. For four weeks after the surgery, Ms. Doe lactated profusely. Her breasts were so leaky and swollen that she could not leave the house or sleep through the night. When she did sleep, she experienced nightmares. She was forced to painstakingly wait while her milk subsided. Ms. Doe also experienced phantom kicking for several weeks after the termination.”

In the 1998 case, after Fasano gave birth to twins—one from her embryo and one from a Black couple, Deborah and Robert Rogers, a legal battle ensued, with the Rogerses eventually getting custody of their child months later.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Donna and Richard Fasano leaving court in 1996. Donna Fasano gave birth to two boys, one Black and one white, when a doctor implanted another couple’s embryo into her uterus. The Fasanos have agreed to visiting rights with the Black child, now in the custody of his natural parents. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images</div>

While that is not an issue in the current case, the lawsuit says the Does have suffered just as much.

“Defendants’ misconduct robbed Ms. Doe of the ability to carry her own child. Ms. Doe and Mr. Doe are haunted by questions about what became of their embryos. They have needed to worry about whether their embryos were transferred to another unwitting couple, and whether they have another child or children out in the world whom they have never met,” the complaint says.

“On top of those fears, Defendants inflicted on Ms. Doe an egregious violation of her body. She is plagued by the knowledge that she unknowingly carried a stranger’s baby inside her body. The horror of this situation cannot be understated.”

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