LOS ANGELES — Two California couples gave birth to each others’ babies after a mix-up at a fertility clinic, and then they spent months raising infants who weren’t theirs before swapping them, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.
Daphna Cardinale said she and her husband Alexander Cardinale had immediate suspicions that the girl she gave birth to in late 2019 wasn’t theirs because the child had a darker complexion than they do.
But they set aside their doubts because they fell in love with the baby and trusted the in vitro fertilization process and their doctors, Cardinale said.
Learning months later that she had been pregnant with another couple’s baby and that another woman had been carrying her child, caused enduring trauma, she said.
“I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak,” Cardinale said during a news conference with her husband announcing the lawsuit. “I was robbed of the ability to carry my own child. I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick.”
The Cardinales’ lawsuit accuses the California Center for Reproductive Health and the Los Angeles center’s owner Dr. Eliran Mor of medical malpractice, breach of contract, negligence and fraud.
Mor couldn’t be reached, and the center’s office administrator would not comment.
The two other parents involved in the case want to remain anonymous and plan a similar lawsuit, according to attorney Adam Wolf of the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, who represents all four parents.
The lawsuit says CCRH mistakenly implanted the other couple’s embryo into Daphna and transferred the Cardinales’ embryo — made from Cardinale’s egg and her husband’s sperm — into the other woman.
The babies, both girls, were born a week apart in September 2019. The couples unwittingly raised the wrong child for nearly three months before DNA tests confirmed that the embryos were swapped, according to the suit.
“The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child and were terrified she would be taken away from them,” the lawsuit says. “All the while, Alexander and Daphna did not know the whereabouts of their own embryo and thus were terrified that another woman had been pregnant with their child — and their child was out in the world somewhere without them.”
The babies were swapped back in January 2020.
Mixups like this are rare but not unprecedented. In 2019 a couple from Glendale, California, sued another fertility clinic, saying their embryo was mistakenly implanted in a New York woman, who gave birth to their son as well as a second boy belonging to another couple.
Wolf, whose firm specializes in fertility cases, called for greater oversight for IVF clinics, saying it’s “an industry in desperate need of federal regulation.”
Breaking the news to their older daughter, now 7, that doctors made a mistake and that the new baby wasn’t actually her sister “was the hardest thing in my life,” Cardinale said.
“My heart breaks for her perhaps the most,” she said.
All four parents have made an effort to stay in each other’s lives and “forge a larger family,” Cardinale said.
“They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs,” Alexander Cardinale said.