Bioethics Blogs

Laboratory Mix-ups

Stine Willum Adrian calls for better ways of dealing with mistakes made by fertility clinic laboratories.


What does one do when eggs, sperm, or embryos are mixed up in a fertility clinic lab? This is a difficult question, since mix-ups in the laboratory are not supposed to happen. Unfortunately, they sometimes do.

Marcus, a 19 year-old born and raised in Denmark, is the result of such an incident. In July he went public with his story in the Norwegian media in the hope of finding his genetic mother, a woman living in Iran.

Marcus’ parents had gone through fertility treatments at a private Danish clinic. As Marcus grew up, his parents suspected that a mix-up in the laboratory had taken place. With his dark complexion, brown eyes, and dark hair, Marcus looked different from his Scandinavian-looking, blonde-haired, blue-eyed family.

As it turned out, a cryopreserved embryo from an Iranian woman and a sperm donor had been mistakenly implanted into Marcus’ Danish mother. Marcus found out from the clinic that his genetic mother had a sister that lived or had lived in Norway. He hoped to find her and to get in touch with his other genetic relatives, and went to the Norwegian media for assistance.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Marcus’ story is unique in many ways. Since Marcus and his family have made a legal settlement with the clinic, they are restricted with regard to what they may say in public. Therefore, his story has been told in bits and pieces in the media.

From what has been reported, it seems that this mistake was poorly handled by the clinic responsible for it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.