Babies Swapped at Fertilization

In vitro fertilization viewed through a microscope
In vitro fertilization viewed through a microscope (source)

A Californian couple is suing the IVF clinic that helped them give birth to a baby because that baby was not their genetic child.

IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is a procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm in a laboratory and then placed in the woman so that she can grow the embryo in her body. However, in this case, the embryos of two couples were swapped at the laboratory and placed in the wrong mothers.

When the baby was born, the couple noticed her complexion was darker than their own. Although concerned, they did not want to believe a swap could have happened. They continued to raise the baby for three months until suspicion caused them to get a DNA test, and the test showed they were not the child’s natural parents.

After meeting several times, both couples made the difficult decision to permanently swap the babies. Each couple intends to remain in contact with the other family and the child they gave birth to.

The couple is suing the clinic because of the painful experience they have gone through, and because they have lost the chance to bond with their child through pregnancy and early infancy. The other couple is preparing their own similar lawsuit, but they wish to remain anonymous.


For source links, see the article on

Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Sue (v) - to take legal action against a person or organization, often to claim money as compensation for harmed caused
  • Fertilization (n) - causing an egg or seed to start to develop by joining it with a male cell
  • Procedure (n) - a medical treatment or operation
  • Sperm (n) - a cell that is produced by the male sexual organs and that joins to a female’s egg in reproduction
  • Embryo (n) - a human in the early stages of development
  • Complexion (n) - the natural color and condition of a person’s face
  • Bond (v) - to develop a connection with someone
  • Pregnancy (n) - the state of being pregnant
  • Lawsuit (n) - a claim against a person or organization that is made in court
  • Anonymous (adj) - remaining unknown to the public


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Do you, or did you have a close relationship with your parents?
  2. Do you look like your parents? Do you look like one of them in particular? Which of your features can you see in them?
  3. How is being swapped at fertilization different from being swapped at birth?
  4. The couples in the story chose to swap their babies so that each baby is with their genetic parents. Why do you think they did this? Do you agree with their decision?
  5. If you wanted to have a child, would you consider using in vitro fertilization? Why or why not?
  6. Both sets of parents in this case have had a bad experience. How about the babies? Do you think they know what happened?
  7. How important is bonding between parent and child during pregnancy and infancy?
  8. Have you had a DNA test? What did you learn? If not, would you like to? What would you like to learn about yourself?
  9. The couple in the story are suing the IVF clinic. Do you support this action? If so, how much money do you think they should receive?
  10. One set of parents wants to remain anonymous. What do you think are their reasons?