When a married couple sought help from a fertility doctor to conceive a biological child in 1991, they believed the Ohio doctor had successfully inseminated the woman with her husband’s sperm.
About 30 years later, this couple gifted their child, Jessica Harvey Galloway, and her husband Ancestry.com DNA kits for Christmas 2020 as they wanted to search for relatives in Europe.
Her test revealed a “surprising discovery” – Jessica was not biologically related to the father she grew up with, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 in Summit County, Ohio.
“My parents gave us Ancestry.com kits as Christmas gifts, and since then our lives have never been the same – and never will be,” she said in a press release provided. by the family’s legal team.
Jessica and her parents, Jeanine and John “Mike” Harvey, are suing Nicholas J. Spirtos and Summa Health System after they say the doctor at Summa Akron City Hospital mixed the man’s sperm with that of another client . Spirtos is still listed as a reproductive endocrinology and infertility physician with the health center.
Summa Health spokesman Mike Bernstein said staff are aware of the Harvey family lawsuit.
“We take this allegation seriously and understand the impact it has on the family,” he told McClatchy News on Feb. 1. “At this stage, we have not met the family or carried out our own tests. Given the very limited information we have and the time that has passed, we still hope that the attorneys representing the family will work with us to make this next step a priority.
The lawsuit obtained by McClatchy News says the Harveys consented to use Mike Harvey’s genetic material in an intrauterine insemination, “but that’s not what happened.”
“The only explanation for this devastating news is that the defendants used a stranger’s genetic material to inseminate her, resulting in the birth of Jessica,” the lawsuit states.
Using pedigree records, the family say they learned who Jessica’s biological father is and then contacted the man, listed under the pseudonym Mr Barrett at his request for confidentiality. The lawsuit says Barrett confirmed he and his wife were patients of Spirtos at the same time as the Harveys in 1991.
Barrett agreed to a paternity test, according to the lawsuit, and his results confirmed that he was Jessica’s biological father.
“As a husband and father, it is extremely difficult to watch your family suffer,” Mike Harvey, the man who raised Jessica, said in a press release. “And the source of the pain is something I can never change. Learning that your whole reality is not what you thought it was is hard to explain. It’s like waking up in someone else’s life.
Managing partner Ashlie Case Sletvold, of the Cleveland office of law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, said the family she represents wants to understand how this “tragedy” happened.
“Did Summa not properly clean his lab equipment?” she asked. “Was it the result of Summa mixing up the patients’ semen samples?” The Harveys — and the public — deserve to know.
The legal team says the family does not know what happened to Mike Harvey’s genetic sample.
“Behind closed laboratory doors, Mr. Harvey’s genetic material may have been combined with Ms. Barrett’s eggs to create the embryo which was then transferred to Ms. Barrett,” the lawsuit states. “Or his genetic material may have been used in another patient’s procedure, potentially resulting in the birth of a child by a third couple. Mr. Harvey’s genetic material may still be in the lab. Or he may have been eliminated in some other way.
The Barretts did not have a pregnancy as a result of their embryo transfer, according to the lawsuit.
The Harvey family are now seeking compensation in an amount to be determined at trial and want the court to require the doctor or medical facility to provide the genetic material that Mike Harvey donated for the insemination – or that he “explains where he is”.
“For us, and for countless unsuspecting families, it only took one Christmas present – a home DNA testing kit – to change our lives forever,” said her mother Jeanine Harvey. “It exposed a trauma I could never have imagined. It took every ounce of my power to stay strong for me and my family as we try to move forward.
Peiffer Wolf says this is one of many cases where “fertility misconduct” has been uncovered as DNA testing becomes more popular.
“That’s why we often characterize the current state of regulation of the assisted reproductive technology industry as the ‘Wild West,'” said Adam Wolf. “Meaningful oversight is absent; error reporting is essentially non-existent; and tragic cases of lost, destroyed or mishandled embryos are on the rise. After several decades and thousands of cases of fertility misconduct, we are still in the era of the “Wild West”. How many more people will have to share their heartbreaking stories before our lawmakers take this issue seriously? »
Peiffer Wolf released a report titled “The Crisis of Fertility Center Regulation in the United States” in 2019, calling on Congress to create stricter guidelines in fertility clinics.
This story was originally published February 2, 2022 3:51 p.m.