NCDRC Imposes Rs 1.3 Cr Fine On Hospital For ‘Mix-Up In Semen Samples’ During IVF

New Delhi : In a case of alleged sample mix-up during an IVF procedure, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has fined a West Delhi hospital an amount worth Rs 1.5 crore following the complaint by a couple who became parents to a set of twins 15 years ago.

According to the complaint, the woman undergoing IVF procedure was administered a semen sample that did not belong to her husband.

Noting that the “genetic link between the parents and their children has been severed” due to “negligence”, Dr SM Kantika of the NCDRC, in an order on June 16, said that the accused were “collectively involved” in the alleged mix-up of samples.

The father of the children had sought a compensation of Rs 2 crore for “deficiency in service”, stating that it caused “emotional distress, family discord and fear of genetically inherited diseases.”

The judge also flagged “ethical concerns” arising out of Artificial Reproductive technologies (ARTs) and stressed on the need to regulate them.

“In our country, mushrooming of ART centres has led to incorrect treatment of innocent infertile couples. The specialist requires correct knowledge about the physiology of ovulation as well as reproductive gynaecology. Routine gynaecologists without having in-depth knowledge, using incorrect protocols may be harmful. One must realise that infertility patients are stressed both emotionally as well as financially. The instant complaint involves many burning issues like medical ethics, unfair practices and misleading advertisement,” said Kantika.

Taking cues from various Supreme Court judgments about “just and adequate compensation”, the court directed Bhatia Global Hospital and Endosurgery Institute and its Chairman and Director to jointly pay Rs 1 crore as compensation. They were also asked to deposit Rs 20 lakh in the consumer legal aid account of NCDRC.

The other three accused, which included doctors of the hospital, were directed to pay Rs 10 lakh each to the complainants. The court said the failure to pay the compensation within a period of six weeks would attract a penalty of 8% interest per annum. The court said Rs. 1.3 crore collected as compensation would be deposited in the form of Fixed Deposits (FDs) for the twins, with both entitled to a share of 50% each. The parents are permitted to withdraw interest for the care and welfare of the children, the court added.

The anomaly was detected in 2008-09 following a DNA profile test. It was found that the blood group of one of the twins was AB positive, whereas the parents were B positive and O negative respectively. “It is clear that due to the negligence…during ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) or IVF procedure, such a disaster occurred,” the commission noted.

While the various accused blamed each other, alleging “collusion” between one of the accused and the complainants, the court held all of them collectively responsible for indulging in “unfair trade practices”.

The commission also flagged the role of embryologist as a “crucial person” in ICSI process, noting that a discussion on the same was missing in the case.

“Due to negligence, the genetic link between the parents and their children has been severed. Its impact was on several social and ethical issues,” the commission said.

The panel said the complainants deserved compensation for incurring expenses on bringing up the twin girls for 14 years. It also said that “the possibility of inherited genetic disorders is unpredictable”.

Flagging the mushrooming of ART clinics, the commission said that they “are moving to donor gametes very early…just to increase the success rate of the clinic”. The panel added: “Moreover, mixing of gametes and use of donor gametes is being done without the knowledge of the patient.

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