Angels In Waiting Surrogacy Center out of Illinois is the newest agency to face the public glare of scrutiny. According to the lawsuit, which was just filed in a Lake County court:
An infertile couple claims an unregistered surrogacy center was in cahoots with a woman who used an alias to donate her eggs more than a dozen times, in violation of industry guidelines. The couple says that when they demanded their money back from Angels in Waiting Surrogacy Center, its owner, Dianna Watschke, closed the company down and reopened under another name. John and Kelli Conroy claim Watschke and Angels in Waiting, of Grayslake, Ill., failed to locate a suitable egg donor or reimburse them for a hefty retainer they paid after getting false information about the egg donor, “Kristin.”
They say Watschke induced them to pay money up front based on false information about “Kristin.” Based on information on the defendants’ Web site, the Conroys say, they contacted Watschke “to inquire about whether ‘Kristin’ was available and eligible to be a donor for the plaintiffs.” They say Watschke falsely assured them she “would obtain ‘Kristin’s’ medical, psychological, pregnancy history and egg donation history to confirm that there was nothing to indicate ‘Kristin’ was unable to undertake the risks of the egg donation cycle.”
In their complaint in Lake County Court, the Conroys say they signed a retainer contract and informed Watschke that Kelli Conroy’s health insurance carrier would expire in December and a delay would cost them $15,000. Watschke allegedly told the Conroys “that she had personally verified the dates of ‘Kristin’s’ stimulated oocyte cycle” and would “promptly” forward her medical records to the Conroys’ in vitro facilitator. After a month delay, the Conroys say, Watschke submitted ‘Kristin’s’ information to the Reproductive Science Center in Lexington, Mass., which discovered that ‘Kristin’ had participated in “at least twelve (12) oocyte donation cycles” before the defendants listed her as an “eligible and available egg donor on their Web site.”
They say Watschke refused to reimburse them, but dissolved her company in October 2008 and shut down its Web site, only to reopen under the name Midwest Surrogacy Center.
Sadly, this new scandal does not surprise me. This is not the first time an agency has closed down upon facing allegations of impropriety, only to reopen with a different name and a new look so as to mislead clients about their identity or attempt to escape liability. Also, with the economic downturn, I have become aware of a disturbing trend of prior donors lying about their previous cycles so as to avert the American Society of Reproductive Medicine guidelines which cap the number of retrievals an egg donor can undergo at six. Parenthetically, if you go to the Angels In Waiting Surrogacy Center’s website, you will find that the domain name is now for sale and no information is available about their program. However, there are archived versions of their website available to be viewed via this link. If you read through “Angels” archived site, you will find that they marketed themselves as a low cost alternative to other agencies. As has been the case lately, these cheaper options ultimately end up costing infertility patients far more than they ever imagined – both monetarily and emotionally.
It can be difficult for an agency to detect if a donor candidate has withheld pertinent information about her prior donation experience. While it is incumbent upon the agency to obtain all prior medical records, the problem is that the agency can only seek the information from the list of doctors that the donor identifies. If a donor fraudulently withholds information on prior cycles and her physicians, there is little the agency can do given the absence of any type of national registry or database. This case appears to be different, however, as the Complaint alleges that the agency owner was actually complicit with the egg donor as she had medical records reflecting at least 12 prior donor cycles.
This is another black-eye for an industry that continues to do little to police itself. If these scandals continue unabated, draconian government intervention will be inevitable and infertility patients will suffer yet again.