Couple sue doctor after IVF embryo mixup caused them to give birth to another couple's baby

Author Ed Anderson

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Daphna and Alexander Cardinale in a video released by their lawyersCourtesy Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway

Alexander and Daphna Cardinale say they knew something was wrong with their baby, conceived using In vitro fertilization (IVF) when she was born in September 2019. Their baby girl's complexion was darker than either of theirs, among other feelings that something wasn't right. However, they shook it off and moved on. 

Over the next few months, Alexander says that he started to wonder if something terrible had happened. Daphna tried to convince her husband that he was overreacting, that there were fail safe's in place at the IVF lab to prevent anything bad from happening. Soon though, even she couldn't deny that something did seem to be off about the baby's genetics

Even though friends and family members commented on the baby's race, the Cardinales, including their oldest daughter, fell in love with the baby. The bliss was about to be cut short.

A phone call from the California Center for Reproductive Health shook Daphna. The representative asked for a picture of the baby. This sent red flags up for Daphna, who was beginning to see why her loved ones wondered what was happening. 

She finally decided to quiet everyone's fears that there was a mixup at the lab and bought a home DNA test. Alexander and Daphna got samples from the baby and each other. They sent it off, not knowing the life-changing news they were about to get.

The Results Are In

In November 2019, The Cardinales received the results in an email. When they opened it, a tidal wave of emotions swept over them. Neither Daphna nor Alexander had genetic ties to the baby girl they had grown to love over the two months. 

Two fears emerged after the bombshell hit them. The first one was that they were going to lose the baby girl that they loved so much. And the second was that they had a biological child in the world that they needed to find. To help them with both problems, they hired a lawyer. 

Days later, they learned that the lab had found the baby girl's biological family. The Cardinales were also told that the parents had also recently given birth to a baby girl. 

Both couples decided to do DNA tests in December 2019. They received the news that each couple was raising the other's biological children on Christmas Eve. 

Shortly after, their attorney sent Alexander a photo of his biological daughter. The other family named her Zoë, which the Cardinales decided to keep calling her. 

Alexander told People magazine that it was odd to learn his daughter's name from someone else. That it was "weird" that he and Daphna did not name their baby girl. 

Their older daughter begged her parents not to swap babies with the other family. They began to do visits with the other family, each taking their biological children for brief times. By January 2020, they decided it was time for the children to be with their biological family. 

But the bond between the families was strong, and they remained friends. Alexander says they have essentially blended their families together. 

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Alexander after being reunited with ZoëPeiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway

Dig to the truth 

The Cardinales have filed a lawsuit against the California Center for Reproductive Health, Dr. Eliran Mor, their IVF doctor, and a lab that More owns for negligence, breach of contract, medical malpractice, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and battery over the mistake. Their attorney, Adam Wolf, said that mistakes are part of human nature, but safeguards should have been to avoid a mixup like what happened to his clients. 

Experts within the field say that there should have been protocols in place to prevent this from happening. One of the things that should happen is that an employee at the IVF clinic should double-check the embryos before they are implanted into the mothers. 

Another safeguard most clinics use is a color-coded system for vials and lab dishes. This is usually used because people generally remember color better than they do names. 

Under normal circumstances, there is only one lab involved in caring for the embryos. This is to avoid a mixup like what happened with the Cardinales. 

Dr. Nicole Noyes, an IVF specialist not involved in the Cardinales case, summed up the feelings of both families as best as she could. "Carrying the wrong baby, raising the wrong baby for a month or a year or however long, and then swapping it out. It's not like swapping out your earrings. I can do that in a heartbeat, but you wouldn't do that with a child."

Dr. Mor and a representative for CCRH both declined to comment. 

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Cold Cases From Around The World.

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