Embryo Mix-ups Stun Parents in La., Ohio

It's the cutting edge science that creates life in a petri dish, but it turns out that at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, a simple accounting error in its IVF program could have as many as 100 parents wondering whether they really are the parents of their children. CBS

A suburban New Orleans hospital has suspended operations at its in-vitro fertilization center due to concerns that dozens of frozen embryos were mislabeled.

Ochsner Health System spokeswoman Amiee Goforth said Friday that hospital officials have no reason to suspect embryos were implanted in the wrong mother.

But the hospital is contacting around 100 couples that may have been affected by the apparent labeling mix-up at the Elmwood-based in-vitro fertilization center.

According to Ochsner officials, the problem occurred at the point in the IVF process when embryos that are to be stored for later use are placed in freezers filled with liquid nitrogen, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann. They are supposed to be bar coded, color coded, and labeled so nothing can go wrong.

"There are embryos that appear to be mislabeled or others cannot be accounted for," said Chief Medical Officer Joseph Bisordi.

Ochsner admits some of the patients they talked to have requested genetic testing to be sure. Doctors say that will be done at Ochsner's expense.

Today's news comes on the heels of another remarkable mistake at a fertility clinic, Strassmann notes. In Ohio, Carolyn Savage revealed that she was implanted with an embryo belonging to another couple. She plans on giving the baby over to the biological parents.

"You just can't believe you're in a situation where this is unfolding the way it is, it's unreal," Savage said.

The 40-year-old woman from the Toledo suburb of Sylvania is due to give birth within the next two weeks. The couple say they will give the baby boy over to his biological parents, who live in Michigan.

In Louisiana, Ochsner's chief executive officer, Dr. Pat Quinlan, said in a statement that the center will not be accepting new patients while the center conducts an internal audit of the program.

Other than DNA tests, all Ochsner can offer their patients is an apology, Strassmann reports.

"We are disappointed in ourselves and what we have learned today and we are deeply sorry," Quinlan said.

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