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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"A thorough check of the whole store revealed inconsistencies in record keeping"
 real 56k

Tim Hedgley, National Fertility Association
"We are very disturbed that this has happened"
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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
DNA tests for embryo blunder women
test tubes
An embryologist has been suspended.
Couples treated at the fertility clinics which have mislaid embryos are to be offered DNA tests to reassure them their babies are their own.

This is despite a spokeswoman for one clinic saying she was "100% sure" that no-one had been implanted with the wrong embryo.

The government has asked for an urgent report into the disappearance of the frozen embryos.

A total of 39 women are believed to be involved in the scare - 10 at the North Hampshire Hospital and 29 at the Hampshire Clinic, which share storage facilities.

Dozens are believed to have contacted helplines set up by the clinics - and some who are currently undergoing treatment have been told that they must start againn to ensure there are no mistakes.

Administration checks made at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke and the private Hampshire Clinic, which share facilities, revealed some embryos to be missing from storage.

The embryos are created during IVF by introducing sperm to a number of eggs in the laboratory.

Two or three are immediately implanted into the woman, while the remainder are often frozen in case the attempt fails.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said there was no suggestion that women had been implanted with the wrong embryos.

A spokesman for the Hampshire Clinic said: "We are categoric that nobody has been made pregnant by other patients' embryos. We are 100% sure on that."

Newspaper leak

The hospital said at least 10 couples hoping to be made pregnant through IVF treatment could be affected by the loss of the embryos - but The Sun newspaper reports the scandal may affect up to 80 women.

A spokesman for the hospital, which is run by an NHS Trust, confirmed that a senior member of staff had been suspended pending the outcome of an official probe.

We have to focus on the potential human cost involved in these tragic circumstances

Tim Hedgley, National Fertility Association

Distressed couples

Both the hospital and the clinic are accredited and licensed units which were last inspected by the HFEA in May 2000.

The missing embryos have prompted calls for more regular inspections of clinics.

The embryologist at the centre of the scare, Paul Fielding, has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

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See also:

31 Dec 99 | Health
IVF 'no better than insemination'
11 Jul 00 | Background Briefings
The future of fertility
27 Jun 00 | Health
Laser bursts help 'hatch' embryos
06 Sep 00 | Wales
Row over IVF postcode 'lottery'
31 Aug 00 | Health
'Shock' of sperm donor babies
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