This is the stuff nightmares are made of for every couple who has used a fertility clinic to get pregnant. Imagine trying for years to have a child and coming to the conclusion that your only hope of having a child together is to go to a fertility clinic.
Imagine your excitement when your pregnancy test comes back positive and you begin to pick names while wondering which one of you the baby will look like, and whose eyes the baby will have.
Now, imagine how horrified you would be years later, when your daughter is 24-years old, and you learn that only the mother is biologically related to her – not the father.
That is exactly what happened to an Ohio family who announced a lawsuit in August, claiming a stranger’s sperm was used to create an embryo when a couple underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1994.
According to the complaint, Joseph Cartellone, of Delaware, Ohio, alleges he discovered earlier this year that he is not the biological father daughter Rebecca, with his wife, Jennifer.
The Cartellone family claims they made the discovery after Rebecca gave at-them home DNA kits as Christmas presents last year. They allege they received the results in late January and almost immediately noticed something was off.
“It’s hard to explain the shock and agony when you find out that someone you love and care for — your own daughter — is not genetically related to you,” Joseph said at a press conference announcing his family’s lawsuit against Christ Hospital and the Institute for Reproductive Health and Ovation Fertility in Cincinnati.
“My daughter Becca’s DNA does not contain any of my Italian family’s genetic history and makeup,” he said. “There’s a mix of anger, pain and confusion that comes along with having to accept this and having to break the news to our family.”
They used the results of the DNA test to trace Rebecca’s real biological father to a “handful of individuals,” one of whom was a doctor who worked at Christ Hospital, which is named defendant in the lawsuit, according to Joseph Peiffer, one of the family’s attorneys.
In addition to Christ Hospital, the lawsuit was also filed against the Institute for Reproductive Health and Ovation Fertility in Cincinnati.
“While we are evaluating the allegations surrounding events alleged to have occurred in the early 1990’s, it is The Christ Hospital Health Network’s practice to not publicly comment on pending litigation,” the health network told ABC News in a statement.
According to the complaint, in addition to not knowing the identity of his daughter’s biological father, Cartellone does not know if his sperm was potentially used to create embryos with another woman’s eggs.
“One of the things we really want to find out through our lawsuit is what happened,” said Adam Wolf, another attorney for the family. “Right now, we have no idea.”
Cartellone said he wants other parents and parents-to-be to learn from his family’s ordeal and go into the fertility process with their “eyes wide open.”
“I would strongly urge them to have their eyes wide open and understand something we did not at the time, which is that this is an industry that has a lot of issues and errors and mistakes, and even some intentional,” he said, noting that parents should demand to have DNA tests done on fertilized embryos “before they are implanted in the mother-to-be.”
“They need to do as much research as they can and I would highly recommend they get as much transparency as they can into the process,” Cartellone added. “And not just blindly trust that the experts are doing what needs to be done always.”