The Importance of Embryo Transfer Procedures

The Importance of Embryo Transfer Procedures

Victoria Ferrara


It was only four days after becoming pregnant that Sean and Carolyn Savage first learned that their fertility clinic had mistakenly transferred the wrong embryos into Carolyn's uterus. Although a legal settlement prevents the Savages from identifying the fertility clinic by name, the couple explains the mix-up in their 2011 book "Inconceivable." 

At this particular clinic, embryos were stored alphabetically. In preparing for Carolyn's upcoming transplant, a clinic employee went into the "S" file, intending to pull her information sheet. Instead, the employee accidentally pulled the sheet for Shannon Savage �?? now Shannon Savage Morell.  The Morells' information sheet was placed in the back of the Savage's file and the embryos were labeled as the Savage's.

On the day of the transplant, Carolyn noticed that her birthday was erroneously reflected on her wristband as 3/19/1967 instead of 3/19/1969 �?? an error that the nurse corrected with a pen.  Five days after the embryo was successfully transplanted in Carolyn, an inquisitive data-entry employee questioned the discrepancy in birth dates and went through the Savage's file. It was then that the mistake was discovered. Until that point not one person from the clinic had crosschecked the information sheet and the labels �?? not even a doctor.

Although the Savages had the option of terminating the pregnancy or seeking custody of the resulting child, they selflessly decided to carry the baby to term and to hand him over to the child's biological parents �?? the Morells. 

While the Savages considered it a "gift" to be able to return the baby to his rightful parents, they admit that the mistake tore their lives apart and put immense strain on their marriage. Carolyn was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and both parties attended counseling. 

The lesson to be learned from the Savages is that it is imperative to discuss the precautionary procedures in place at your clinic to ensure that a system is in place to reduce the likelihood that a mistake will occur.     

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