Embryo mix-up at Czech fertility clinic sparks concern over procedures

Illustrative photo: Czech Television

Medical tourism in the Czech Republic has suffered a major shock after news emerged that a fertility clinic in Brno mixed-up two embryos before Christmas. Staff at the facility implanted the fertilised eggs in the wrong patients, both from EU states, in what is the first known case of its kind in the country.

Illustrative photo: Czech Television
Reprofit, a fertility clinic in central Brno, boasts clients from 90 states around the world.

Late last year the facility itself reported to the State Institute for Drug Control that a terrible mix-up had occurred there: The wrong fertilised eggs had been implanted in two women from EU countries.

Reprofit is part of a network of clinics named Futurelife. Matěj Stejskal, deputy chairman of the latter’s board of directors, insists that human error was to blame.

“I can confirm that we ourselves uncovered this mix-up. An investigation is taking place. I’d just like to say it’s not a matter of systemic failure but individual error. And naturally we have boosted safety measures at our clinic in the form of double monitoring.”

Dr. Pavel Trávník heads the Department of Clinical Embryology at the Institute for Postgraduate Medical Education. He says the “human error” defence is not good enough.

“The system should prevent individual errors from occurring. It should be set up in such a way that such mix-ups don’t happen. They should use bar coding, colour coding and what they call witnessing, in which one embryologist checks the work of another. It’s highly individual work that requires very careful concentration.”

Women come from all over the world to the Czech Republic for fertility treatment because of the country’s liberal legislation and competitive prices.

Pavel Trávník, photo: archive of Pavel Trávník
But Dr. Pavel Trávník says clinics can’t afford to cut corners if they are to provide high-quality treatment.

“If somebody wanted to save on staff and such like and in so doing turned this service into a business, that would be very bad. I myself think that it’s not going to an especially profitable business, as long as money is invested into methods and staff, as it should be. It would only be a business if savings were made on materials, equipment and so on.”

Much is unclear about this case, reported to be the first of its kind in the Czech Republic.

It is not known whether the women will carry the foetuses to term or what sort of legal action may ensue.

But one lawyer told the tabloid Blesk, which broke the story, that the couples involved may well be awarded several million crowns in damages. The clinic could also be fined or lose its license.