I recently read an article in People Magazine about a couple who had the wrong embryo transferred to a woman's body. She became pregnant, and briefly after telling her the good news, another call came notifying them that the embryos transferred were not theirs but another couples. The couple decided that they would not abort the fetus but carry it to term and then have to give up the child to her biological parents. According to them there was no other alternative. Without much thought I know I would do the same thing.
Both families are outraged by the mix up but the biological parents of the baby in gestation are relieved, thankful and excited to be able to add to their family. Besides the obvious pain, the woman carrying the baby has been notified by her RE that she will never have another chance to carry a baby because of a condition she has, and therefore, the five embryos they have frozen will have to be put in a gestational carrier. The news is a doubly whammy for the couple.
The big question is how do things like this happen? Just because we are dealing with vitally important circumstances such as life, death, surgeries, infertility treatments does not change the fact that humans are performing these procedures and operations. Think about how many mistakes happen at the telephone company, restaurant, or airport. Errors are going to happen because they are inevitable. It's not just the human factor, but poorly run hospitals, overworked staff, and new technologies that are slowly but surely gaining ground.
Think of changes hospitals have had to make in recent years because of unthinkable mistakes. They are now having patients take a magic marker and "x" which body part is supposed to be operated on because one too many times the wrong limb was amputated. Are these stories sensationalized? Sure. Does it makes it any less scary or thought provoking? Hell, no. If your blood lab isn't already doing this, make sure they check your date of birth and name at least twice when they use a vial to draw blood. Babies have notoriously gotten switched at the hospital from the nursery to mom's room for feeding etc. Not so much now, but in the past it was very common- yes, really I know a personal story.
Think about other fields where the public have gotten royally screwed because they put way too much trust in the "professional" they hired. Financial planners and banks are the first to come to mind. In this day and age we are forced to think twice maybe four times before we make a commitment to anyone. As always it is the 2% making the other 98% look bad, but none of us can afford these scandals- financially or emotionally. And, if we do not learn from others have have suffered, then there must be blame placed on ourselves.
There are things you can do to help prevent you or a loved one from being a hospital/doctor/nurse/ blunder in particular.
Education, Advocacy, and Trust.
ART is new as far as medical technology is concerned. Surgeries and procedures are still being tweeked and developed. Labs holding sperm, eggs, and embryos should be holding this responsibility to the highest regard considering that they are dealing with creating human life. This is where the trust has to lie. However, you can make sure your genetic ties are in the best place possible. You can still ask to see the lab, ask a million questions, read statistical data, bug the crap out of the doctors. You have to because this is your health and your life.
The days of fully trusting your doctor to know what is best should be far behind us. We are an educated public, we are consumers, we have been given tools to find more information.
There will never be a 100% guarantee that when you are under a doctor's care that something bad will not happen. But, maybe you can lessen your risks of being wrapped up in a medical mishap. We should learn to partner with our doctors. We should learn and have the confidence to know that just because we did not go to medical school does not mean we do not know our own bodies and do not have the capability of learning about biology. And, our doctors should be evolving to the point where their patients will put them to the test and they are ready for the questioning attitude. Medical school isn't over with residency. They will be held accountable, forced to dig deeper into problems, and should have their heads in the right place and not up in the clouds simply because they are the doctor.
The second I ever get the feeling a doctor is patronizing me again I will be out the door in a second. It's my life, my body, and my future. No one knows me better than me.