Switched at Conception
'I question everything'
Feb. 5, 2001 -- The last thing Kelli Gora ever expected to hear
was that she might be a mother. That was a dream the Californian, now 38, had
given up on years earlier, when several in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts
costing her more than $15,000 failed to produce a child. It was a painful
experience she had worked hard to accept and put behind her.
But the wound was reopened last year when a lawyer
investigating allegations against the University of California, Irvine's
now-closed Center for Reproductive Health -- where Gora had her IVF procedures
in the early 1990s -- told her that records indicated a woman who had traveled
from South America to the clinic had received one or more of Gora's
"donated" embryos. "At the time, the possibility of something like
that happening never even occurred to me. I was told those embryos had
died," Gora tells WebMD.
It's a possibility that Sean Tipton, director of public affairs
for the Society of Assisted Reproductive Medicine, says others seeking IVF
procedures needn't worry about. The Irvine clinic scandal -- which first came
to light in 1994 and may involve hundreds of patients -- was an isolated
incident, he says, and today, fertility centers follow stricter ethical codes
around embryo use.
But Gora's lawyer, Melanie R. Blum, isn't so sure, and would
like to see stiffer laws regarding the handling of eggs and embryos in IVF and
other procedures. Blum, a reproductive-law specialist who has represented
clients in more than 120 lawsuits against the Irvine clinic, including Gora,
tells WebMD: "The clinic at Irvine isn't the only one where things like
this have happened. I hear about similar cases all the time, from all over the
As a result of the Irvine scandal, the university closed the
clinic, fired the three physicians who ran it, and sued them as well as the
clinic to obtain patient and financial records. Two of the physicians -
including Ricardo H. Asch, MD, who treated Gora -- are believed to have fled
the country; the third physician remained in the U.S. and eventually was
convicted of insurance fraud.