Legal Woes for New Orleans In Vitro Clinic

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.

In New Orleans, Ochsner Hospital's admitted mishandling of frozen embryos could be costly to more than its reputation. Lawyers are circling, for as many as 100 affected patients, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

"My clients have struggled with this travesty for the last year," said Melanie Lagarde, an attorney for Kim and Abraham Whitney.

They say Ochsner admits losing four of their frozen embryos.

"They want to know what happened to these embryos," Lagarde said.

Ochsner admits some embryos frozen for later use were mislabeled - or are missing - in its in vitro fertilization center. Despite safeguards that should have included bar-coding, color-coding and labeling.

"We are disappointed in ourselves," said Dr. Patrick Quinlan, said the CEO of Ochsner Health System.

But the hospital says, "No" to the big question: Did any families go home with the wrong child?

But at an Ohio fertility clinic, that did happen.

Carolyn Savage had the wrong embryo implanted in her, at a fertility clinic in Ohio.

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

Friday, Savage gave birth to a baby boy and will give him to his biological parents, Paul and Shannon Morrell.

"To give this baby a chance at life, to have a normal life, even though this child had an unusual start," Shannon Morell said.

Joyful new parents now, the Morells admit high anxiety when they first learned of the mix-up.

"I didn't know if she was going to terminate, if she was going to carry it," Morell said. "I didn't know who these people were. It was terrible."

The new worry - whether similar mix-ups happened because of Ochsner's mistakes.

"I have to tell you, it is my clients' greatest fear," Lagarde said.

Ochsner has suspended its in vitro program indefinitely pending a complete review, and has offered free DNA testing to any affected patient that wants it.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.