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She carried the baby for 9 months. Birthed and loved it. But it wasn’t hers

The IVF procedure worked. It was an extremely difficult pregnancy, but Daphna Cardinale was thrilled to deliver a healthy, perfect baby girl on Sept. 24, 2019. She was instantly in love.

Cardinale’s husband, though, had doubts from the first second he laid eyes on the baby. Her hair was jet black. Her complexion was so different. He just couldn’t see any family resemblance.

Their 5-year-old daughter was instantly smitten and relished being a big sister. Doubts nagged at him, but Alexander Cardinale soon fell in love with the new baby, too. After a couple of months, Daphna Cardinale bought a DNA kit to put her husband’s doubts to rest.

The Calabasas couple were shattered to discover that their baby wasn’t genetically theirs at all. A new terror — that she’d be taken away — seized them.

The Cardinales contacted the California Center for Reproductive Health in Los Angeles where they did the IVF, and eventually learned that two embryos had somehow been switched. Daphna Cardinale had carried and given birth to a baby from complete strangers. And strangers had carried, given birth to and were raising the Cardinales’ biological daughter.

“My memories of childbirth will always be tainted by the sick reality that our biological child was given to someone else, and the baby that I fought to bring into this world was not mine to keep,” Daphna Cardinale said, weeping, at a news conference on Monday, Nov. 8. “The daughter we raised and bonded with was gone after months of love and affection. There’s no way to describe the pain that we’ve been through.”

In an episode that carries haunting echoes of the UC Irvine fertility fraud scandal 25 years ago, the Cardinales are suing the California Center for Reproductive Health and Dr. Eliran Mor in Los Angeles Superior Court for breach of contract, medical malpractice and negligence, among other allegations. The Cardinales call on government to more strongly regulate the fertility industry — much as critics did when UCI doctors transferred eggs without permission from one woman to another in the mid-1990s.

A woman reached at Mor’s clinic said there would be no comment on the suit.

While the Cardinales and the other couple eventually returned biological babies to their biological parents — and have become a very 21st century extended family themselves — things did not work out quite so neatly for families ensnared in the UCI scandal. At UCI, some women who were never able to bring a pregnancy to term discovered that they actually had biological children — babies born from their eggs, which were given to other patients of the clinic without their consent. Those biological parents had no rights to those children, and some would haunt school playgrounds just to watch their genetic offspring play.

Laws changed in the wake of the UCI scandal. In 1996, Penal Codes Section 367g was enacted, making it a felony to use or implant sperm, eggs or embryos except as expressly authorized in a signed document by the genetic material’s owner. But there has been little in the way of regulation of the booming fertility industry since then.

“The IVF world is a business,” said Arthur Caplan, founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. “It needs regulations to cover liability for error. Inadequate screening. Loss of storage capability and loss of gametes and embryos. Standardized informed consent. Legal help for donors and surrogates paid by couples. Audits and sight visits.

“The whole industry has been captured by profiting commercial industries with less regulation than exists for many industries that don’t make babies,” he said.

Source: Orange County Register

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