Gay couple sues IVF fertility clinic over female embryo 'error' after requesting boys

An ultrasound image of surrogate mother Manjula, 30, is seen on a monitor at the Akanksha IVF centre in Anand town, about 70 km (44 miles) south of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 24, 2013.
An ultrasound image of surrogate mother Manjula, 30, is seen on a monitor at the Akanksha IVF centre in Anand town, about 70 km (44 miles) south of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 24, 2013. | REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal

A same-sex couple who wanted to have a son is suing a Southern California fertility clinic after they say a female embryo was wrongly implanted in the surrogate, leading to the birth of a daughter instead.

Albert and Anthony Saniger filed the lawsuit earlier this month in Los Angeles Superior Court against Pasadena-based in vitro fertilization clinic HRC Fertility and fertility specialist Dr. Bradford A. Kolb.

The complaint alleges breach of contract, medical malpractice, negligence, fraudulent concealment and violation of the Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, according to CBS News.

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The two men married in 2013 and hoped to have as many as two sons, even going as far as choosing first and middle names for their future children. They also created email accounts with the first and last names of their yet-to-be sons, the suit stated.

The Sanigers say they requested only male embryos be transferred to their surrogate. The suit claims that HRC and Kolb agreed to allow them to select their desired embryos, but the defendants "negligently, recklessly, and/or intentionally transferred a female embryo to the Sanigers' gestational carrier," according to the lawsuit.

On its website, HRC states the clinic has been "dedicated to helping the gay and lesbian community achieve their dreams of parenthood" since 1988. 

The website also states that Kolb is an expert in the field of reproductive services and has a range of clientele from across the globe.

HRC's website also states that Kolb is "internationally known for his expertise in complex reproductive matters" and that patients come from around the world to seek his services.

The website further states that Kolb's practice is known for helping to develop and implement "cutting-edge technologies in the genetic screening of embryos and the development of new laboratory technologies."

According to the complaint, the couple provided their genetic material to HRC in May 2020, when arrangements were made for donor eggs and a surrogate through a third-party agency. 

In all, the lawsuit contends that the plaintiffs spent around $300,000.

Two failed transfers took place in 2020 before the surrogate became pregnant in December of that year, according to the complaint.

A daughter was born to the Sanigers in 2021.

Calling the financial impact on their family "staggering," the Sanigers say they only planned for two sons and not the three children they will likely be raising.

"To this day, HRC has offered no explanation for how this error occurred," the suit states.

In a statement, HRC seemed to acknowledge the Sanigers "ideally desired a baby boy but were blessed with a healthy girl."

"To their dissatisfaction, we have sought to address their concerns. Every child has value and limitless potential regardless of gender," the statement reads, according to City News Service.

"We hope the Sanigers find love and value in their healthy child while so many across the country are struggling with reproductive issues. Since 1988, we have remained and continue to remain, dedicated to helping hopeful parents build families through assisted reproductive technology, compassion, expertise, innovation, cutting edge research and personalized care."

IVF consists of manually combining sperm and egg in a laboratory dish before transferring the embryo into a woman's uterus. 

Pro-life organizations such as Illinois Right to Life contend that IVF results in the killing of unborn children in multiple ways, citing research that shows embryos often die when they're discarded or fail to survive being frozen or thawed.

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