SEATTLE (CN) – Parents of quadruplets say they told a fertility clinic repeatedly that they would “rather have no children than a multiple pregnancy,” but the clinic, concerned with “the maintenance and improvement of their published statistical implantation success rate,” implanted multiple embryos into the mother anyway. The quadruplets, born prematurely, all survived.
Felishia and Patrick Burchard sued the Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences and Drs. Michael Opsahl and Gerard Letterie, in King County Court. They say the defendants pressured them into implanting multiple embryos, despite their repeated protests.
The Burchards, who had one child but had difficulty conceiving another, say they “clearly explained” to doctors at Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences that they wanted only one baby and did not want to implant multiple embryos.
“In their initial discussions with Dr. Letterie, the Burchards clearly explained that they were concerned about the possibility of a multiple birth, due to concerns regarding the health of the babies conceived in this manner, Felishia Burchard’s health, and because of the likely effect of a multiple birth on their ability to continue to provide an attentive, loving family environment for their son. They told Dr. Letterie that they would rather have no children than a multiple pregnancy,” the complaint states.
The Burchards said they also informed the defendants that they did not want their embryos frozen or preserved because it would violate “their religious and personal moral convictions,” and that they were prepared to be rejected because of their concerns.
“Dr. Letterie and Northwest Center agreed to this course of action requested by the Burchards,” the complaint states. “Dr. Letterie informed the Burchards that their desires and concerns were reasonable, that they were consistent with his own philosophy and preferences, and that they were consistent with the direction the field of in vitro fertilization was heading. He informed the Burchards that he would support their plan and he encouraged them to proceed with the in vitro fertilization. He informed the Burchards that he believed that they would have a good chance of conceiving with this plan, but that more would be known upon assessing Felishia Burchard’s egg quality.
“Without this representation and encouragement by Dr. Letterie and Northwest Center that they would abide by the Burchards’ wishes in formulating and following a conservative treatment plan, the Burchards would not have proceeded with the in vitro fertilization procedure.”
Felishia Burchard took fertility drugs purchased through the clinic, but two days before the insemination procedure, consulting physician Michael Opsahl met with her and said he was “unaware of the previous plan of treatment agreed to by Dr. Letterie and Northwest Center” and told her “you won’t get pregnant” with a single embryo implant, according to the complaint.
The Burchard say they were “pressured” to accept multiple embryo implants, and told they could “walk away” if they did not agree.
“When the Burchards again objected to this proposed course of action as being inconsistent with the previously agreed plan, Dr. Opsahl indicated that they could simply ‘walk away.’ He made this statement on behalf of all defendants, fully aware of the significant emotional and financial investment that the Burchards had already made in their treatment. By this date, the Burchards had fully paid for all services and medications,” according to the complaint.
The Burchards say they finally agreed to a “compromise,” of having five eggs fertilized.
“Dr. Opsahl stated that it was highly unlikely that all five inseminations would be successful. Dr. Opsahl stated that it was even more highly unlikely that the insemination of ‘only’ five eggs would result in more than one or two viable embryos for implantation,” according to the complaint.
Three of the five fertilized eggs developed into viable embryos. After they were implanted one embryo divided, resulting in quadruplets.
“Felishia Burchard’s quadruplet pregnancy was exceptionally dangerous for the life and health of the mother, and the life and health of the babies. On medical advice, Felishia Burchard delivered all four babies well ahead of term. Each of the four babies suffered severe postpartum health problems as a result. Fortunately, as of the date of this complaint, all four babies have survived, and are developing normally,” the complaint states.
The Burchards say the clinic was concerned primarily with “the maintenance and improvement of their published statistical implantation success rate, due to the corresponding business benefit to defendants, real or perceived.”
They seek special damages for medical negligence, violation of the Consumer Protection Act and medical expenses.
They are represented by Andrew Kinstler with Helsell Fetterman.