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Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA? (gizmodo.com) 267

Long-time reader randomErr quotes Gizmodo: It's a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm. In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country's Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn't just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of 'genetic affinity.' In other words, the clinic must pay the parents' child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn't wind up with the right genes...

"It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. "They attached damages to the genetic makeup of the child, rather than the mistake. That's the part that makes it uncomfortable. This can take you in all sort of fucked up directions."

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Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 22, 2017 @11:35AM (#54282951)

    Sometimes a woman will trick a man into raising another man's child. It is more common than you think.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by haruchai ( 17472 )

      Sometimes a woman will trick a man into raising another man's child. It is more common than you think.

      There are plenty of cucks out there

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by dugancent ( 2616577 )

        Too bad the alt-right and /r/the_donald has reappropriated the word to describe anyone who doesn't agree with them.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @01:56PM (#54283559) Homepage

        There are plenty of cucks out there

        Actually research indicate there aren't, at least not after birth control, legalized abortion and the awareness of DNA tests. Current estimates are 1-3% of the population. The excessively high numbers you get quoted from time to time are because they've self-selected groups where the paternity is in doubt, in these low confidence selections it's 10-30%.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Sometimes a woman will trick a man into raising another man's child. It is more common than you think.

      I suggest routine DNA testing after birth to make sure the hospital didn't swap someone else's baby for yours.
      Maybe another parent made an under-the-table deal with some random nurse to secretly swap the wristbands so they could get the kid they wanted.

    • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Sunday April 23, 2017 @11:30AM (#54287671)

      Sometimes a woman will trick a man into raising another man's child. It is more common than you think.

      I used to do something similar when I was delivering Pizzas for a living. Whenever one of my girlfriends had a baby, I would drop off the baby instead of the pizza and told them it was theirs. Later the court ordered me to pay 30% of the child's upkeep. Not a total win for me, but I feel like I saved 70% on the cost of raising the kid.

  • Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday April 22, 2017 @11:39AM (#54282973) Homepage Journal

    "It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo.

    That's a lot of shit. It's suggesting that people didn't receive what they paid for, and should receive recompense on that basis. It doesn't mean that the child is bad or wrong. It means the clinic is bad and wrong.

    If you think giving a couple the wrong genetic material is OK, then why shouldn't you be responsible for footing the bill if someone else knocks up your wife? This is basically clinical cuckoldry. That's not what they paid for.

    • +1 Insightful

      I was going to write the exact same thing. It is about punishing a COMPANY that did something wrong.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      You didn't even read to the end of the summary, it seems. The problem is they are not suing over the mistake made by the clinic, but that the child has the wrong genes. Suing the clinic over medical malpractice is fine, but the couple has sued for a completely different formulation of the problem.
      • You didn't even read to the end of the summary, it seems. The problem is they are not suing over the mistake made by the clinic, but that the child has the wrong genes. .

        They are suing because the child has the wrong genes because of the mistake.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          The child has the wrong genes because of the mistake. They are suing over the mistake.

          Malpractice is a legal term that shouldn't be used. People who aren't up on the local laws in Singapore will probably use it wrong.
      • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 22, 2017 @12:02PM (#54283051)

        The kid does have the wrong genes. They wanted their kid, they got somebody else's kid. It fucking matters!

        The clinic is responsible for child support, in the same way a guy would be responsible for child support if he impregnated a woman by accident (protection failed or whatever).

        Such a punishment is necessary to prevent this sort of thing. No punishment = widespread malpractice. That's reality.

        • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 22, 2017 @12:26PM (#54283137)

          This. Someone with mod points needs to make this +6.

          ATimes has better coverage: http://www.atimes.com/article/world-first-singapore-court-rules-parents-deserve-kids-genes/ [atimes.com]

          The couple paid to have the Chinese mother's egg fertilized with the German father's sperm in vitro and then implanted in the mother, where it was to gestate and be born as their child, of their genes. Instead, the lab used an Indian man's sperm. The laboratory cuckolded the father and gave him a child that does not look like him. It has different genes and a darker skin tone than either parent. It will always look different from the father, and both the father and child, as well as everyone else who meets them, will know instantly that the mother gave birth to a child belonging to a man other than her husband.

          That clinic needs to be punished, and other fertility clinics ought to be worried at how easy it could be for that mistake to destroy patients' confidence in the clinics. Why would you go to a fertility clinic now, when you know what they could do to your family? The fertility clinics need to band together and regulate themselves heavily in order to bolster confidence that they are not cuckolding factories.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            It's an even bigger cluster-fuck than that. What about the Indian man's parental access rights? The child is his. I don't know the legal situation in Singapore, but when stuff like this has happened in the UK there had to be an adoption by the husband of the mother, and a legal request to change the father's name on the birth certificate.

            Also, the Indian man's wife/girlfriend has been made a cuckquean. Seems like they would have some standing to sue too.

            30% doesn't seem like enough, really. Say they decide

            • I was wondering when I'd find someone that considered the Indian donor.. The whole thing is a damn mess.
          • The fertility clinics need to band together and regulate themselves...

            Good luck with that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by markdavis ( 642305 )

          >"The kid does have the wrong genes. They wanted their kid, they got somebody else's kid. It fucking matters!"

          I will certainly say that in many ways it should not matter. It is their kid, just not their offspring. Semantics aside, one can provide the exact same love and joy for a child, regardless of genetics. Look at sperm/egg donors, adoption, even pet lovers- doesn't even have to be the same species :)

          The only reason it might really matter is later when dealing with healthcare and hereditary diseas

          • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @04:42PM (#54284253)

            The father "propagating his like" and all that does matter in some cultures though. And it's not just a matter of shame, which can be considerable, for the parents. Bastardy can carry a stigma for the child as well that may even persist into adulthood.

            I'm not endorsing such beliefs, mind you. Nor am I accusing these parents of holding them. Hell, I neither have nor want kids, for that matter. But the cultural attitudes I described do exist in the world. And they can cause significant problems for the child beyond the, not at all insignificant, medical questions that may arise from unknown parentage.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            I will certainly say that in many ways it should not matter. It is their kid, just not their offspring.

            NO. This is for THEM to decide based on their values. Presumably if the parents would be satisfied with a kid of
            different genes, they COULD have just adopted without going through this procedure. If the parents think it matters, then it matters. And if they believe the child was not theirs then it's not theirs. In going through this procedure they likely had specific goals in mind.
            The choice t

          • The specific primary reason I wanted children was to pass my genes on. This is an extremely deep, natural instinct to most people. I'd never in a million years want to invest a lifetime of resources (financial, time etc.) parenting and supporting some other man's child, to further his genetics - whether the clinic made the mistake or my partner cheated - that is not the deal. The deal is, my genetic offspring in exchange for my parenting resources. If I was this poor German father I would be trying to pay 0

          • Look at sperm/egg donors, adoption, even pet lovers- doesn't even have to be the same species :)

            First off, having a pet vs. having a kid is not the same thing. Not at all.

            Semantics aside, one can provide the exact same love and joy for a child, regardless of genetics. Look at sperm/egg donors, adoption, even pet lovers- doesn't even have to be the same species :)

            Semantics aside, one can have sex with any other human being on the planet. And yet somehow, we still make the distinction between consensual sex and rape.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kohath ( 38547 )

          The kid does have the wrong genes. They wanted their kid, they got somebody else's kid. It fucking matters!

          More-or-less everyone understands this. And more-or-less everyone throughout history would understand this.

          The people claiming this is "weird" or "fucked up" are either strange themselves, or they're pretending. Either way, they're pushing a moral or ethical idea that contradicts nature. They're going to need a better sales pitch.

          • The people claiming this is "weird" or "fucked up" are either strange themselves, or they're pretending. Either way, they're pushing a moral or ethical idea that contradicts nature

            Yeah; to the guy's saying it "shouldn't matter" to the father whether the child has his genes, I say, let me have sexual access to your wife and impregnate her and you pay the child-rearing costs, I'm sure they won't mind as it "shouldn't matter".

            • by Kohath ( 38547 )

              The one saying "it shouldn't matter" is just wishing for something different than reality. Wishing is normal. Why wish for this specifically though? That's the part that's harder to understand.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            If genetics didn't matter to the parents, they would simply adopt a child. If they are paying for IVF they clearly care about having a child that is genetically theirs.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          The clinic is responsible for child support, in the same way a guy would be responsible for child support if he impregnated a woman by accident

          It is an even worse situation, if the kid has neither the man's genes nor the woman's genes.
          If a man accidentally impregnates a woman, the woman will still have to pay a portion of the child support (Unless it were Rape),
          but in this case, NEITHER parent is genetically related to the kid, so the Clinic's level of child support should be 100% of the costs
          of suppo

      • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @12:04PM (#54283059)

        The problem is they are not suing over the mistake made by the clinic, but that the child has the wrong genes.

        The kid having the wrong genes is the direct fruit of the clinic's malpractice. It's no different than a baby being dropped on its head by the doctor. You don't sue ONLY for the mistake, you sue for the consequences of the mistake. Two parents decide to merge their DNA and make a baby. They do so knowing their, and their families' histories. The clinic chooses to negligently upend that planning with an unknown set of consequences - and robbing the parents of having allowed the father to contribute his traits to the child they've chosen to make. The ramifications are numerous, both emotionally and quite possibly medically, intellectually, etc., for the child. You can't separate the negligence from the life-long consequences.

      • Most countries are unlike the US in that they sharply limit liability for medical malpractice. This couple probably could not have won ongoing damages solely for malpractice. After all, they didn't sign up to raise a child that is biologically parented by some stranger -- but because of the clinic's mistake, they are now on the hook to do exactly that.

        • by bsolar ( 1176767 )
          Not sure which countries you are talking about: in most European countries I know medical malpractice is always open to huge liabilities. I think you are confusing malpractice with accident: in case of medical accidents nobody is at fault, so nobody is liable. In case of malpractice somebody it's at fault, usually due to some form of negligence. This leads to liability and could easily even lead to criminal charges.
      • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @01:06PM (#54283327) Homepage

        You didn't even read to the end of the summary, it seems. The problem is they are not suing over the mistake made by the clinic, but that the child has the wrong genes. Suing the clinic over medical malpractice is fine, but the couple has sued for a completely different formulation of the problem.

        You keep talking about "right" and "wrong" genes as if it was a flawed designer baby that didn't match the contract specifications. If you make a child, you pay child support. If it's not your child, you don't pay child support. If it doesn't have dad's genes, biologically it isn't his which leaves half of the child's expenses unpaid. If the accidental donor can't be held economically responsible, the clinic should. If a man can have a one night stand and pay for it the next 18 years, I don't see why they can't have one lab accident and pay for it the next 18 years.

        I think the clinic is lucky to only pay 30%, I'd say the cuckolded father has every right to disavow this child and for the mother to demand the clinic pays half in the absentee father's place. The man in this couple has essentially agreed to become the adoptive dad of someone else's child and pay 20% of the expenses himself, I think that's overly generous. In fact I bet in the US they'd both sue the hospital for many millions of dollars over the emotional trauma of discovering "their" child isn't their child.

      • Re:Bullshit, Todd. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @01:41PM (#54283495)

        From the court's decision:

        "In the circumstances, the Court recognises that the Appellant's desire to have a child of her own, with her Husband, is a desire that is a basic human impulse, and its loss is keenly and deeply felt.

        "The ordinary human experience is that parents and children are bound by ties of blood and this fact of biological experience - heredity - carries deep socio-cultural significance...

        "And when, as in the present case, a person has been denied this experience due to the negligence of others then she has lost something of profound significance and has suffered a serious wrong.

        "This loss of 'affinity' can also result in social stigma and embarrassment arising out of the misperceptions of others, as was the case here."

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        problem is they are not suing over the mistake made by the clinic, but that the child has the wrong genes.

        That is a Red herring. The child has the wrong genes BECAUSE the clinic made a mistake, The child having the wrong genes is a RESULT of their medical malpractice, therefore, the clinic has committed damages in the amount of the costs of correcting the result to be what the parents' paid for. Not only did the parents Not get what they paid for, when the parents go to correct by going through the

        • It has been a while, but I am pretty sure Singapore citizens cannot have an abortion in their own country, although foreigners can. So, if you are forced to have and raise a child (that will have the social stigma in Singapore of being Indian/Chinese), the impact is longer term than just a percentage of the fees paid for in-vitro fertilization... hence it not being considered malpractice.
    • a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo.

      "Senior Research Scholar" is a title that tells us nothing of the person's qualifications to make the comment. You can just be the oldest student that helped to an internet search and get that title. I'm sure he's not speaking in any professional, and likely not even a thoughtful capacity when he chooses words like "fukced up directions",

    • ... It's suggesting that people didn't receive what they paid for, and should receive recompense on that basis.... That is the gist of this.

      .
      If I go to a car dealer and buy a car, and the dealer subsequently delivers a different car to me, the dealer failed in his side of the transaction.

      imo, it depends upon what the transaction papers say. Do they say the clinic should deliver the sperm for a "generic child" or sperm with a specific DNA. If the clinic did not abide by the agreement, then everything else is a moot point.

      • The man and woman went in together. He jerked off in a cup. That sperm was what was to be used.

        Yeah, they were to use specific DNA.
    • But what makes your own kid have the privilege to be raised by you, purely by genetics? What are you? A Nazi?

      Everyone should be happy to raise someone else's kid, especially a German ...

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @11:39AM (#54282979)
    This sets a dangerous precedent. If this keep up, fertility clinics will have to start being careful.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @11:45AM (#54282999) Homepage

    Capitalism is based on the idea that both sides agree to exchange what is promised, not merely something someone else thinks is close enough.

    You can't offer to sell "Lamborghini" and deliver a kit car with a Lamborghini shell and a 1985 K car motor under the hood.

    If they do not want to be legally held responsible for what the services they do, then the answer is simple - do it for free, with disclaimers about not promissing anything.

    Because the second they charge money for their services, they become legally responsible to actually fulfilling what they offer, rather than the mistake. And yes, the penalties correspond to the costs and pain incurred, rather than merely being limited to the amount they charged.

    • You've confused "capitalism" and "free market system", but as the AC pointed out, neither of those is a prerequisite for being responsible for the damages you cause to others. If you drive over a stranger who was walking down the sidewalk, you're liable for his injuries even without any agreement between you and him.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      If they do not want to be legally held responsible for what the services they do, then the answer is simple - do it for free, with disclaimers about not promissing anything.

      Doesn't work that way. You can be held liable for:

      Malice: Give away "free candy" with rat poison
      Recklessness: Give a free foot rub but confuse the massage oil with caustic soda
      Negligence: Give a free house, it collapses and kills someone because of poor foundation work
      Strict liability: Give a minor a free blowjob, even if he's got a fake ID

      Software mostly gets away with it by saying "these are just blueprints, we're not making any claim they can actually be used for anything". But the moment you start actua

    • Capitalism is based on the idea that both sides agree to exchange what is promised, not merely something someone else thinks is close enough.

      In reality though capitalism is based on the exchange of something which one side can persuade a court is good enough...which is one of the big problems with capitalism because typically one side can afford far more lawyers than the other. In this case what they provided was so far from what they promised that even an army of lawyers could not win the argument that it was good enough but note that they only got 30%, not 50%, of child care and there was zero compensation for the emotional damage to the fami

  • One of the great mysteries in my family is how I was born (second child) as a ten-pound bowling ball (doctor told my moms she had twins) to two very skinny people. Of course, I had to look like the poster child mongolism and promptly got diagnosed as mentally retarded by the school system. My father stopped drinking, my mother started drinking.
  • Wait, why didn't they do any genetic testing of the zygote *before* implanting? In vitro means the egg was fertilized outside of the womb. They didn't doe the due diligence to check that they'd gotten it right?

    This is, of course, a completely different question than the ethics of suing the clinic for the child having the "wrong genes," which sounds like some bullshit.
    • Can you take a genetic sample of a microscopic egg without kill it?

      • IVF clinics generally extract a few cells from an embryo for testing and sequencing prior to implantation. It's actually easier to do genetic testing in IVF than a normal pregnancy, but genetic testing at an early stage is now standard in the US for pregnancies in women over 35.

  • this time clinic pays customer ... next time parents with a "better" (replace with desired trait) kid will pay clinic for greater than average genes.
    • In the same way that suing a bank for giving someone the wrong safety deposit box means that next time customers can pay for better safety deposit boxes. The logic you suggest doesn't follow from the evidence.
    • Non sequitur. In both of your cases, the clinic makes the mistake. The moment a clinic attempts to sue parents who get a "better" kid (your words), the parents would sue the living shit out of them for their mistake and win in court.
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @01:08PM (#54283341) Homepage

    This Todd Kuiken is an idiot. What it implies is that this kid is like any other, the responsibility of his parents. And the unique nature of this screwup meant that he was not strictly the responsibility of the couple, at the same time the original donor should not be held responsible for what was done with his sperm without his consent. So the one responsible was ordered to share part of the responsibility for this child, they are just lucky that the court ordered the responsibility be split three ways, and not half for using the wrong sperm, or if they got really vindictive, it would not have been completely unreasonable to have ordered them to pay all of the expenses for this unwanted child.

    • >"they are just lucky that the court ordered the responsibility be split three ways, and not half for using the wrong sperm,"

      Imagine if they got the wrong sperm AND egg; which is entirely possible since it was in-vitro. Using this theory, the clinic could be held 100% financially responsible for the child until age 18!

      • Imagine if they got the wrong sperm AND egg; which is entirely possible since it was in-vitro. Using this theory, the clinic could be held 100% financially responsible for the child until age 18!

        I won't discuss whether this is right or wrong. But let's assume the clinic is a business. When you run a business, you want to get paid for your cost, plus some profit, and if there is a risk that you make mistakes, you add the probability of a mistake times the cost of a mistake. if there's a one in thousand chance of a million dollar mistake, then the cost goes up by $1,000. If people don't want to pay the $1,000, then they can't get the goods.

  • by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @01:49PM (#54283527)
    Anybody remember Cecil Jacobson, using his own sperm at the fertility clinic https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]
  • One of the definitions of "wrong" implies a moral standard is at play, which some comments are keying off of it (including Kuiken in the summary).

    The better word in this case is that the incorrect sperm was used.
  • LOL I first read it as "Can Parents Sue Their Kid If Born With the 'Wrong' DNA?"

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