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Switched at Conception

'I question everything'

The handling of eggs and embryos continued...

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.

Laws still catching up

While the FDA approves the medicines and devices used in infertility procedures, the legal system has yet to catch up with the technology, says Blum. The ownership of stored eggs and embryos wasn't established in California until after the Irvine case, when the state passed a law that made mishandling of eggs or embryos a felony. In many states, there are no such laws.

"I don't want these laws to be so restrictive, people can't get the procedures," says Blum. But she would like them tough enough to prevent another Irvine-type incident.

Gora recommends that other couples considering IVF be especially careful. "If I had heard my story before getting the procedure, I would have approached it all differently," she says. "I would have asked more questions, not put the doctors up on pedestals, and never let those eggs out
of my sight."

Today, Gora is remarried and relies heavily on her faith to see her through the knowledge that she may have children she will never meet.

"I know that ultimately God is in control, not the doctors at Irvine," she says. "Maybe that woman needed a baby more than I did. Maybe I needed to tell this story. I don't know why. But I believe everything happens for a reason."

Michele Bloomquist is a freelance writer based in Brush Prairie, Wash. She writes frequently about consumer health.

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