Court dismisses appeal over IVF sperm mix-up

Court dismisses appeal over IVF sperm mix-up

The woman gave birth to a daughter after undergoing IVF treatment, but later found out that her egg had been fertilised with a stranger's sperm.

File photo of in-vitro fertilisation, in which eggs were harvested from a woman's ovaries, fertilised, and then cryogenically preserved. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean woman who conceived a child in an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) sperm mix-up at Thomson Medical cannot claim "upkeep costs" for the child.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday (Mar 22) rejected an appeal by the woman against an earlier High Court decision, which ruled that she was not entitled to bring the claim for upkeep costs against Thomson Medical, its fertility centre and the centre's senior embryologist and chief embryologist.

The woman - who is Singaporean Chinese and is married to a German man of Caucasian descent - gave birth to a daughter, Baby P, in 2010 after undergoing IVF treatment. The parents noticed that Baby P's skin tone and hair colour were noticeably different from their own, and was also markedly different from that of their first child.

A blood test showed that Baby P's blood type could not have been a combination of both parents. Further investigations revealed that the woman's egg had been fertilised with the sperm of an unknown Indian donor, instead of her husband's.

The woman then sued Thomson Medical and the other three respondents, as well as sought upkeep costs which are the expenses she would incur in raising Baby P such as for basic necessities and for post-secondary education among other things.

The respondents admitted liability but argued that she should not be allowed to recover upkeep costs, arguing that there was "something distasteful, if not morally offensive" in treating the birth of a healthy child as a matter for compensation. The High Court ruled in their favour, and the woman then appealed to the Court of Appeal against the High Court decision.

The panel of five judges - which included Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon - unanimously dismissed the appeal, saying that the claim for upkeep costs would be "against public policy".

"It amounts to a claim for an indemnity for the costs of raising a child and places parents in a position where their personal interests as litigants will conflict with their duties as parents," the judgment read.

However the Court found that the woman had suffered a loss of "genetic affinity" and said it would leave the amount of damages to be awarded to the High Court to decide.

Source: CNA/nc