Mike and Jeanine Harvey are filing a lawsuit against an IVF clinic run by Dr. Nicholas J. Spirtos, claiming that a sperm mix-up back in 1991 harmed their family. The couple, who have a daughter named Jessica, recently found out that the young woman’s dad is not her biological father.
According to the lawsuit, the nightmare discovery happened after Christmas 2021. Mike and Jeanine Harvey had bought their daughter an Ancestry DNA test so she could connect with distant relatives on her trip to Italy. Mike Harvey is Italian and growing up, Jessica had been very involved in their heritage.
After taking the test, it was discovered that Jessica is not Italian and has no genetic relationship to Mike.
The botched procedure took place at the IUF clinic in Akron City Hospital, which is now known as the Summa Health System. At the time, Dr. Nicholas J. Spirtos, was the head of Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and In Vitro Fertilization/Embryo Transfer. The couple gave Spirtos permission to perform an “intrauterine insemination,” which is where sperm is placed directly into the uterus when eggs are released.
“Our goal couldn’t have been clearer. We wanted a child who is genetically related to both of us,” said Jeanine Harvey during a Feb. 2022 press conference about the lawsuit. “Without our knowledge, Dr. Spirtos used a stranger’s sperm, instead of my husband’s. I got pregnant and our daughter Jessica was born in 1992. Harvey girls were very rare in the family, so we were so excited. I screamed and scared the doctors half to death when she was born.”
According to reports, Jessica’s biological father is a man named “Mr. Barrett.” He and his former wife were patients of Dr. Spirtos at the same time as Mike and Jeanine Harvey. They never had a child. A paternity test confirmed that Mr. Barrett and Jessica are related.
Adam Wolf, lawyer for the Harvey family, said they are suing the doctor for “medical malpractice, battery, lack of informed consent, multiple instances of negligence, the failed safeguarding of genetic material, and the list goes on.” The couple and their daughter hope that the clinic will pay for the devastating pain that they are going through.
After learning about the botched procedure, the Harveys and their lawyers sent medical records and paternity test results over to Summa Health System. The couple claims that they have never been contacted by the company to explain how the mix-up happened. The Harveys say they are suing because they are not getting answers from Summa Health System.
Summa recently released a statement regarding the lawsuit and said, “We are aware of an allegation that has been made claiming in 1991 a patient was artificially inseminated with the semen from a person who is not her husband. We take this allegation seriously and understand the impact this has on the family. At this point, we have not met with the family or conducted testing of our own. Given the very limited information that we have and the amount of time that has passed, it remains our hope that the attorneys representing the family will work with us to make that next step a priority.”
Dr. Spirtos has not commented on his involvement with the 1991 IVF procedure.
Mike and Jeanine Harvey explained that, of course, they still consider Jessica their daughter. And Jessica said she still sees Mike as her father.
“I will always be there to support and protect [Jeanine and Jessica],” Mike said. “As a husband and father, it is very difficult to watch your family in pain – especially when the source of that pain is something that you know you can never correct. Learning that your entire reality isn’t what you believed it to be is hard to explain; it’s sort of waking up in somebody else’s life”
Wolf said that IVF treatment is still considered the “Wild West” of fertility medicine, and even after years of testing, there are very few rules and regulations to make sure that couples get the treatment they are expecting. Wolf said that federal regulations will need to be created to make sure everything is done correctly. The lawyer has represented other couples who went through the same pain as the Harveys.
“After several decades and thousands of fertility misconduct cases, we are still in the ‘Wild West’ era,” he said in a statement. “How many more people will have to share their heartbreaking stories before our legislators take this problem seriously?”