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Health & Pregnancy

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Switched at Conception

'I question everything'

Success rates tell the tale continued...

"People always think they are going to be in that 20-30% that gets a baby, not in the 70-80% group that fails. I would tell people to go in expecting that it won't work, and then if it does, it's a miracle."

Gora became depressed, and her marriage faltered. The stress caused by the invasive and intense treatments, and then by the letdown of her negative pregnancy tests, was more than she or her husband expected, she says, and they divorced. For the next two years, she made payments on the $8,000 credit card debt she had incurred to pay for the procedures. "That was torture. Every month, that bill was a reminder." After the bills were paid, she destroyed every document, check stub, and record that reminded her of the treatment, and tried to put the episode behind her.

Then the egg scandal broke.

The handling of eggs and embryos

In 1994, whistleblowers from the Irvine clinic alerted the university that the clinic's doctors allegedly were underreporting their income, importing fertility drugs not FDA-approved, and transplanting stored eggs into patients without consent from the donors. Gora's mother heard about it and urged her daughter to contact the clinic. "I told her I never wanted to see or talk to any of those people again, but if she wanted to call that would be fine with me," Gora says. So her mother contacted Blum.

At the time, there was no evidence that any of Gora's unfertilized eggs had been used. Then, last year, Blum finally gained access to the documents that tracked the handling of fertilized eggs, or embryos. She contacted Gora, and together they looked at the records.

Tacked onto the back of Gora's chart was a woman's name. Next to the name were some numbers -- the same numbers that had been assigned to the embryos Gora had been told were dead. To Blum, the records indicated that hundreds of couples had been similarly affected.

"Now I question everything about it - I'm not even sure that they ever implanted embryos in me at all," Gora says. "Maybe they thought I was young, I'd have other chances. I feel that every one of my embryos that was given to someone else was a chance to have a baby that was stolen from me."

The woman who received Gora's embryos has a common name in South America, with no address or contact information listed. Gora has little hope that she will ever find out whether the woman had a child with her embryos.

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