Anni and Ashot Manukyan wanted their daughter to have a younger sibling, so they used a fertility clinic to try to get pregnant using in vitro fertilization, or IVF.
In August 2018, the clinic transferred two of what were thought to be the Manukyans’ embryos into Anni’s uterus. They were devastated when the process did not result in a pregnancy.
But as they’d later learn, those were not even their embryos. They belonged to another couple, or perhaps couples – they’re not sure.
Instead, one of the Manukyan’s embryos was thousands of miles away in the uterus of a Queens woman. And that woman gave birth on March 31 to the Manukyan’s genetic son as well as another baby boy from a third couple, according to a lawsuit.
Now the Manukyans are suing the clinic, CHA Fertility, for the shocking IVF mixup that has “played with three families’ lives,” Anni Manukyan said on Wednesday.
“CHA robbed me of my ability to carry my own child, to be with him in the first couple moments of his life, to nurse him, to just do skin on skin contact. Just be a mom to him,” she said.
Their lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses CHA Fertility of medical malpractice, negligence and a bevy of other charges. An attorney for the couple, Adam Wolf, said Wednesday the three-family mixup was one of the worst fertility center tragedies in US history.
“The number of things that went wrong here is just plain staggering,” he said.
The Manukyan’s lawsuit comes days after the Queens couple, identified in court documents as A.P. and Y.Z., filed a similar lawsuit in federal court against CHA Fertility. The Queens mother, who is Asian, gave birth to two non-Asian babies, the lawsuit states, and DNA testing found that each child was a genetic match to a different couple who were also CHA Fertility clients.
The Queens couple was then forced to give up the babies to their genetic parents.
CHA Fertility has not responded to repeated CNN inquiries for comment.
A three-couple error
In vitro fertilization is a series of procedures in which an egg is fertilized in a lab and then transferred to a uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic. The process is generally used by couples who otherwise have struggled get pregnant.
CHA Fertility claimed on its website to be one of the premier fertility treatment networks in the world and that it has “fulfilled the dreams of tens of thousands of aspiring parents” in over 22 countries.
In fact, the Manukyan used the clinic in 2011 to give birth to their daughter, who is now 7 years old, they said. On this second attempt, though, they said the fertility clinic bungled their IVF process and have not been forthcoming since then.
The lawsuit states that they learned something was off on April 11, when they were told to come to CHA Fertility for a cheek swab for a “routine quality control measure.”
The next day, a fertility doctor gave them the news: a baby born in Queens was a genetic match.
“I felt my heart beat outside my body,” Anni Manukyan said when she learned the news.
The next several weeks were a “non-stop nightmare” as they tried to get more information on their genetic son, the lawsuit states. They had to sue in family court to obtain custody, and the boy was 6 weeks old by the time they got to see him, they said.
“Who wants to meet their child in the lobby of a hotel?” she said. “It was heartbreaking. It was terrible.”
Two months later, the baby is doing great, Anni Manukyan said. He’s rolling over.
“He’s had no issues bonding with us. We just love him to pieces,” she said.
Despite the custody battle, she praised the Queens woman who gave birth to the twins and wished her the best.
“I’m eternally grateful to her for carrying my baby and taking care of him even after birth. She’s a wonderful woman and I pray for her every day,” she said. “God will give her her own beautiful babies one day. She deserves that.”
Instead, they directed their ire at CHA Fertility, both for misusing their embryos and for implanting her with another embryo.
In addition, while one of their two embryos was implanted in the Queens woman, the Manukyans said they and CHA Fertility do not know what happened to the second one.
“It means that we live with the uncertainty that another embryo of ours may be born to someone else,” Anni Manukyan said.