IVF blunder in Singapore

Hi there,

The biggest news of the past week was the US mid-term elections. The Democrats were routed and surrendered control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. This will not transform the bioethical landscape but it will make embryonic stem cell research more difficult if scientists are depending on Federal funding.

However, the item which caught my eye was a brief story about an IVF blunder in Singapore. As usual with such things, the wrong sperm was used – something the parents detected only when a blood test showed that the baby had a blood type belonging to neither parent – a sign that something was gone wrong.

As usual, the medical director of the IVF clinic apologised but insisted that the centre's operating procedures "meet all regulatory requirements, and are of the highest international standards". Am I the only one who finds this neither reassuring nor convincing? Nearly all the IVF blunders which have appeared in the media have involved racial differences which were very obvious at birth. What about all the other babies?

Call me a sceptic, but I am not ready to believe assertions that such incidents are exceedingly rare. How do IVF clinics know? The only way to confirm the parentage would be to genetically test every baby. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever proposed that. But wouldn’t it give parents the certainty that the child is theirs?

What do you think?

Michael Cook



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