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Couple accuses California fertility clinic of mistakenly implanting embryo with genetic mutation for rare cancer

By Ratziel San Juan Published Mar 02, 2023 4:34 pm

A California-based couple has filed a lawsuit against the Huntington Reproductive Center (HRC) Medical Group of Pasadena, accusing it of mistakenly implanting an embryo that allegedly had a genetic mutation for a rare cancer.

The accusers, couple Jason and Melissa Diaz, moreover claimed that the center altered its medical records to cover up their mistake. Their lawsuit even named their doctor and IVF coordinator.

Jason said at a Mar. 1 news conference that he was diagnosed at 32 with hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC), which according to the US National Cancer Institute is a type of rare cancer that grows in the stomach. This is caused by a genetic condition, meaning parents can pass it on to their children. It is unknown exactly how many people have HDGC with it comprising only 1 to 3% of all stomach cancer cases.

Consequently, Jason had his stomach removed and has since been treated with chemotherapy. The couple was advised to use in-vitro fertilization (IVF) rather than conceiving naturally, and then genetic testing of the resulting embryos—to spare their child the same fate.

The couple claimed, however, that HRC made a grave error that will lead to their year-old child eventually getting his stomach removed surgically to prevent his cancer development by the time he reaches maturity.

“Now I will be forced to watch my own son, my own flesh and blood, go through this, after Melissa and I worked so hard to protect him,” Jason tearfully said.

HRC Fertility has since issued a statement to Los Angeles media empathizing with the parents while emphasizing that the genetic testing was done outside of its facility by a third party.

“The patients associated with the case sought genetic testing and genetic counseling outside of HRC Fertility, and with an outside party; they wished to have a male embryo transferred, which we carried out according to the family’s explicit wishes and in accordance with the highest level of care,” the statement reads.

IVF is the main type of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), which in 2019 resulted in 77,998 live births at reporting clinics in the United States. In fact, approximately 1 in 50 (2%) of all infants born in the country every year are conceived through the "still relatively rare" but increasingly popular ART.

According to the UK National Health Service, IVF risks include medicine side effects, multiple births, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, and risks for older women.