Daphna Cardinale and her husband Alexander thought that IVF was going to be the perfect answer for the birth of their second child. Their oldest had been asking for a sibling and, in 2019, Daphna became pregnant.
Today, the couple is calling the process a nightmare and that is because a mixup with their embryo caused them to give birth to someone else’s baby. Daphna and Alexander are now suing the California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH) and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor for damages.
“I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak,” Daphna said during a news conference. “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.”
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale learned about the mixup three months after giving birth to a stranger’s child. Both babies were girls and had been born only weeks apart. They realized that something was wrong when the baby had a darker complexion and jet black hair.
A DNA test confirmed that neither Alexander nor Daphna were parents of the child, but instead the parents were a completely different couple also located in the Los Angeles area.
The other couple has asked to remain anonymous, but they are also filing their own lawsuit against the IVF clinic and Dr. Mor. The Cardinales are suing for medical malpractice, negligence, fraud, breach of contract, and emotional distress.
According to the couple, they were told by Mor and the clinic that all dealings with the embryos would be conducted “in house.” Instead, Mor outsourced the embryo treatment to InVirtroTech, which allegedly caused the switch.
The lawsuit discovered that InVitroTech had a history of problems when it came to treatment of the embryos and that Mor’s clinic allegedly knew of the IVF mixup before the Cardinales were aware that they had the wrong baby.
The lawsuit claims: “The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child, and were terrified she would be taken away from them. 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.”
Dr. Mor and his fertility clinic have yet to comment on the lawsuit, or the “non-stop nightmare,” that the Cardinales had to experience.
When the two couples discovered the mixup, they started to visit each other almost every day. According to Daphna Cardinale, it was heartbreaking to realized that she had missed the special infant moments of her daughter’s life.
The couple eventually switched babies in January 2020. While they were happy to have their biological children, they realized that it was hard to give up a baby that they had bonded with for three months. The separation was especially hard on the Cardinale’s 5-year-old daughter.
“That’s still the biggest trauma for me,” Alexander Cardinale said. “Tough to explain to a 5-year-old that the child, that that sister that they imprinted on and love —it’s their sister — is not their sister.”
Daphna Cardinale and her husband said that they experienced guilt after giving away the baby. According to the couple, they have seen a change in their birth daughter since they finally brought her home.
The lawsuit said “in fact, since the switch, Daphna and Alexander have watched their Birth Daughter morph from an incredibly happy newborn to an anxious baby — and they worry and feel constant guilt that the ‘switch’ is to blame; that although they were giving her to her own family, they still effectively were forced to abandon her by removing her from the family, home, and life to which she had grown accustomed. This is one of the biggest things that haunts Daphna on a regular basis.”
The couple also suffered emotional, financial and career setbacks. Both couples had to go through a lengthy court process to gain legal custody of their biological children.
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale hope that their story brings change to IVF fertility clinics and holds clinics accountable for their actions. According to their attorney, Adam Wolf, IVF disasters happen too regularly and they cause horrible pain to the couples involved.
Wolf believes that a public discussion of these problems need to happen for any change to be seen. He said that “we need to get regulation or regulations to govern fertility clinics. We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”