A senior Health Ministry official said on Thursday that the disturbing case of an Israeli woman who was impregnated with a fetus that was not her own via an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure, could not be an isolated incident.
After the Assuta Rishon Lezion clinic announced Wednesday that a fetus implanted in one woman had no genetic connection to the mother or her husband, Ynet learned that no inspection of the clinic had been carried out in two years, despite their license to provide IVF treatment being renewed earlier this year.
The clinic on Sunday, said they would not be accepting new patients for the procedure, pending an inquiry.
IVF is a procedure in which a frozen embryo is delivered into a woman’s uterus. The clinics who provide the medical procedure are under the oversight of the ministry.
“The fact that such a mistake was not discovered before, does not mean it did not happen before,” the official told Ynet.
“The ministry is conducting its inquiry into the case with relevant medical experts,” the ministry said.
A former employee of the clinic told Ynet about its lackluster working procedures and the lack of inspection by the Health Ministry and by Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, who heads the General Medicine Division.
“The work standards are outrageous and amateur,” the former staffer said of the clinic, which is also among the most expensive fertility clinics in the country, according to sources.
Ofra Balavan, head of the Chen Patient Fertility a non-profit who assists patients with fertility problems, said she feared couples and single women, who had undergone the procedure would now doubt the identity of their unborn children, and those planning to undergo IVF would hesitate to take the step.
Blavan said a reassuring step would be for patients get to know the doctor treating them. “You can see how approachable he or she is,” she said. “You should make a list of questions, and if the answers are not satisfactory, it’s okay to request a different doctor.”
Workers in Assuta Rishon LeZion said they first heard about the case in the media. “Information was kept from workers, and they were surprised to find out about the case," a source said.
"After a through investigation, we located patients who are potentially connected to the case,” The hospital said. "Some 40 women are being tested to see if one of their embryos were transferred into the wrong woman's womb, and whether one of them is carrying that first woman’s embryo, or if it is still frozen," Assuta said.
“We suspended our IFV program connected with these embryos, and we will contact patients as needed. Medical professionals are looking into the process from extraction, to fertilization and freezing.
“Although the department has operated under high standards and had been successfully monitored by the Health Ministry, we refreshed our working procedures. We also opened a special phoneline for patients, to answer questions and provide medical council. Assuta provides information to the Health Ministry as required,” the statement said.
"Assuta Rishon LeZion has provided instruction to its staff, and is working with the teams, to carry out a probe into the details of the case, which came to light last week."