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Assisted Reproduction

Hospital Shuts Down IVF Lab After Mislabeling Embryos

When it rains, it pours:

Ochsner Hospital Elmwood has indefinitely suspended operations at its in vitro fertilization center in Elmwood due to a possible mix-up in the labeling of frozen embryos.

CEO Pat Quinlan said no embryos had been implanted in the wrong mother. Rather, “we have reason to believe the IVF center has been compromised due to what appears to be a significant labeling issues which makes us unable to account for all of the frozen embryos in our IVF Center,” Quinlan said at a news conference Friday.

Hospital officials believe about 100 couples have been affected by the labeling errors, and began contacting them on Thursday. Officials could not say the cause of the mix-up but said, out of an abundance of caution, they are conducting an audit of the entire in vitro fertilization program, which began in 2003. “Until we complete the full audit, we can’t really speculate on what happened,” said Chief Medical Officer Joseph Bisordi. He offered no other details other than to say there were embryos that appeared to be mislabeled and unaccounted for.” The problem first surfaced a year ago, according to Bisordi. Ochsner officials began an evaluation and brought in an “outside expert” who determined the department needed to expand its audit.

An Ohio woman is now carrying another couple’s baby after a fertility clinic impregnated her with the wrong frozen embryo. The woman, who is expected to give birth within the next few weeks, intends to give the baby back to its biological parents, according to media reports. Bisordi stressed that officials have no evidence that such a mistake has occurred at Ochsner. “This is about frozen embryos,” he said.

Some patients already contacted were grateful to be notified, according to Dr. Al Robichaux, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department. But other who are uncertain have asked about the possibility of genetic testing. In the meantime, Ochsner will help their current patients find other in vitro programs in the area.

Patients with concerns can contact Ochsner by calling 866.631.9783 or can e-mail questions@ochsner.org.

“We are deeply sorry for the concerns, anxiety and fear we know this causes our patients,” Quinlan said.

Hopefully the problem is limited only to the labeling. However, one has to assume that Ochsner has done a number of frozen embryo transfers over the past several years. Given this labeling fiasco, the obvious question that Ochsner patients must be asking themselves is what reassurance do they have that the frozen embryos that were transferred belonged to them. My guess is that there will be a number of former patients conducting genetic testing on their children to allay their concerns.


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