On Sunday 13 April, the Italian Ministry for Health announced the launch of an audit at the Sandro-Pertini Hospital in Rome following the revelation by the newspaper, La Stampa, of an embryo swap between two couples during an in-vitro fertilisation procedure.
According to the Italian newspaper, “The error occurred on 4 December when four different couples attended the hospital for assisted fertilisation“. Although every precaution was taken, “one woman found herself pregnant with twins conceived in vitro by another couple“.
In actual fact, the error came to light when, during the third month of pregnancy, the mother underwent a test to detect any genetic anomalies and a problem of “genetic incompatibility” was discovered between the parents and the embryos.
In response to this, the Health Minister explained that, “National standards relating to assisted fertilisation and involving the application of European directives are extremely rigorous. If correctly applied, any biological material can be traced throughout assisted fertilisation“. The aim of the Ministry in instigating the audit is to check whether the Sandro-Pertini Hospital in Rome has “complied with all legal procedures and to ascertain why the central authorities (ministry) was not notified” of the problem.
A committee comprising five experts has also been set up in order to “establish whether embryos were swapped with those of two other mothers treated in early December“. Assisted fertilisation failed for the fourth couple.
For the time being, the implantation of embryos fertilised in vitro has been suspended in the hospital in question.