California couple sues fertility clinic over embryo carrying cancer gene

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A Southern California couple is suing a fertility clinic for fraudulent concealment claiming they mistakenly transferred an embryo carrying a rare stomach cancer gene and then falsified patient records to cover up the error.

Jason and Melissa Diaz claim their young son now faces the potential of stomach cancer or possible stomach surgery to avoid the rare cancer. They filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday against Huntington Reproductive Center Medical Group, also called HRC Fertility. The couple’s doctor and IVF coordinator are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Melissa Diaz carries the BRCA1 genetic mutation making her prone to breast and ovarian cancer. Her husband, Jason, has a rare mutation that predisposed him to stomach cancer which he eventually developed when he was 32. Jason Diaz then underwent stomach removal surgery and chemotherapy, according to the lawsuit. When the couple chose to start a family, they sought out in vitro fertilization (IVF) and genetic testing for their embryos to ensure the mutations were not passed on to their future children.

The couple’s first embryo transfer in August 2020 was free of both genetic mutations, but that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, according to the lawsuit. With the understanding that one of their male embryos carried only the BRCA1 gene which is linked to less risk for men than for women, the couple opted to move forward with a second embryo transfer resulting in a successful pregnancy and birth of a boy who is now a year old, the lawsuit states.