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Chimerism: Rare Medical Disorder Explains How A Woman Absorbed Her Twin Sister’s DNA And Is Not The Genetic Mother Of Her Own Children


When most people hear of a “chimera”, they typically think of the mythological fire-breathing creature made up of the parts of a lion, snake and goat. Yet a court in Washington was confronted with a modern-day chimera. This fascinating story began when a mother underwent routine DNA maternity testing to prove that her children were genetically related to her so as to qualify for state benefits. Needless to say, she was horrified when the DNA test results came back saying she wasn’t their mother.

Following the results, a prosecutor from the Washington state prosecutor’s office wished to discuss the results and informed Lydia Fairchild that she would be the subject of an investigation into possible welfare fraud.

In the investigation that ensued, social workers questioned Ms Fairchild and the children’s father, who was accused of fathering the children with another woman. Fairchild’s obstetrician was equally stunned by the results.

In the court proceedings that followed, Ms Fairchild faced losing her children to the state; however a similar case occurred in Boston. The rare condition is known as Chimera. Chimera is a rare disorder where twins are present at the early stages of pregnancy and one twin merges or is absorbed by the other. The cells of the absorbed twin don’t disappear and remain alive in one concentrated area of their sibling’s body.

Fortunately, Ms Fairchild was able to have the proceedings dropped against her, however the case demonstrates that sometimes over-reliance on DNA testing can in fact lead to miscarriages of justice.