By Patrick B. Craine

June 15, 2009 ( – A UK couple recently lost their last IVF embryo when it was mistakenly implanted in another woman, who aborted the baby when she discovered it was not hers.

The couple, Paul and Deborah, who did not want their surnames published, have a six-year-old son conceived by IVF. They had wanted a sibling for him, but now they do not expect to be able to conceive again. 

“In less than 10 seconds,” said Deborah, “our wonderful world was shattered when the senior embryologist stood in front of us and said, 'I'm very sorry to tell you, but there's been an accident in the lab. Your embryo has been destroyed.' We were both rooted to our seats. We were stunned and trembling. We held each other tightly, and sobbed and sobbed. It was like water from a tap. I kept thinking, 'They've killed our baby.'”

The couple did not find out that their clinic, IVF Wales Fertility Centre in Cardiff, had mixed up their embryo until later. ”We were shaking with shock and bursting with anger, especially as it was the one thing all IVF patients are told could never happen,” the woman added.

According to the couple’s lawyer, Guy Forster, speaking to The Sunday Times, “A report by HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) investigators shows that the error occurred primarily due to failures by laboratory staff and theatre staff to carry out basic procedures.”

In response to the news about this incident, the IVF Wales Fertility Centre has posted their explanation of the events on the homepage of their website. While openly acknowledging fault and expressing their regret, they also offer their excuses. According to them, “the conditions in the laboratory at the time were quite challenging, with unusually high numbers of patients.” They attribute the error to “a moment’s distraction.”

John Smeaton, National Director of the U.K. organization the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children commented to “This poignant story,” he said, “has many tragic aspects: tiny human beings who are the victims of death by freezing or abortion, a broken-hearted couple who are the victims of the technology which led to the creation and the killing of their babies.

“Sadly, these tragedies are the predictable consequences of IVF, a procedure which by its very nature treats the fruits of conception as subordinate to those involved in their creation – the parents and the IVF technicians. They are also the consequence of the world's failure to heed the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae on the inseparability of the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act.”

In January 2008, reported that UK IVF clinics have intentionally killed over one million human embryos. This figure does not include, however, the number of embryos condemned to a frozen state, who, unless implanted, also will die within ten years.

See related coverage:’s Feature on IVF

UK IVF Clinics Have Intentionally Killed over One Million Human Embryonic Children