Liability for Embryo Mix-Ups in Fertility Practices in the USA

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Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics

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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC part of Springer Nature. Purpose: To study recent legal cases involving the transfer of the incorrect embryo into patients and learn how fertility clinics can better serve clients, protect themselves financially, and safeguard their physicians’ personal assets. Methods: The Nexis Uni database was used to review legal cases, news, and business publications of previous cases of embryo mix-ups. County and district courthouse dockets were also queried for filings and court documents related to lawsuits involving embryo mix-ups using Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Emphasis was placed on court decisions, awarded damages, and legal and media coverage related to embryo mix-up events. Results: A case law review of US legal databases and courthouse dockets was conducted for cases between 2000 and 2020, focusing on lawsuits against reproductive endocrinologists and in vitro fertilization (IVF) facilities offering embryo transfer (ET). Improper labeling and ineffective communication led to errors in the cases reviewed. Conclusion: It is prudent for clinics to protect themselves from embryo mix-ups, which can subsequently lead to undesirable clinical outcomes, as well as lawsuits stemming from these errors. This article emphasizes following labeling guidelines when storing embryos, employing a two-step read back method prior to ET, and offering genetic testing when a discrepancy is found in the record. In the case an embryo mix-up does occur, it is recommended to protect personal assets through business organizing procedures and consider settlement offers for policy limits.


Embryo transfer; IVF error; Liability; Medical negligence; Mix-up


Obstetrics and Gynecology



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