Couple sues San Francisco fertility clinic

September 16, 2009 12:25:36 AM PDT
A San Francisco fertility clinic is being sued by a broken-hearted couple wanting children. They say the clinic botched the in vitro fertilization procedure, then made things worse by destroying embryos without their permission.

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The couple says they weren't initially looking to sue, but they decided to take legal action after the fertility clinic refused to give their money back.

"We went and tried getting help and then it got worse and worse and worse," says Katie Aschero.

Katie and her husband Rob of El Granada went to see fertility specialists in San Francisco in hopes of getting pregnant. However, several months later, the couple is now suing Laurel Fertility Care, which the Ascheros say admitted to mishandling seven of the 13 eggs they retrieved from Katie.

"They accidentally used a different person's sperm, that they had gotten the slots mixed up in the incubator and we were pretty crushed. It was devastating," says Katie.

Katie says what was even more devastating is that the doctors destroyed the embryos without consulting them -- a violation of the couple's contract with the clinic.

"I went to a company whose whole purpose of being a company was to create life and they destroyed life," says Katie. "I think ultimately I would have chosen for them to be donated to stem cell research."

Three of Laurel Fertility Care's specialists are named in the lawsuit -- Dr. Lee Kao, M.D., Dr. Colin Smikle, M.D. and Dr. Marlane Angle, Ph.D. The clinic declined to comment -- referring all questions to its lawyers, who have yet to return ABC7's calls. The Ascheros are seeking fees paid to the clinic, lost compensation, and punitive damages.

"When a woman and a man go to a fertility clinic they have to place their trust in the people with whom their working, they are very vulnerable, they open themselves up physically and emotionally to the doctors with whom they work and the doctors know that," says Nancy Hersh, an attorney representing the couple.

Katie says it wasn't easy to take legal action and to go public with her story. She's hopes doing so will bring about change.

"The fact that they can get away with destroying embryos without consent is remarkable and says a lot about where we need to go in the future with in vitro laws," says Katie.

Katie says of the remaining six embryos, two have since been transferred, but they did not result in pregnancy. The couple doesn't know what they'll do next as far as their plans for a family.

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