WHITTIER, Calif. -- A California couple is suing its fertility clinic, Huntington Reproductive Center, alleging it used an embryo it specifically promised it wouldn't because of the significant health consequences that come with it.
The plaintiffs, Jason and Melissa Diaz, decided to do IVF in hopes they wouldn't pass on a hereditary form of gastric cancer.
Jason is in remission after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2018.
Their plan was to freeze several embryos and get them tested to understand which ones have the gene, then move forward with any of the ones that do not. After meeting with doctors at the Huntington Reproductive Center's Pasadena location, they were sold.
The embryos were created in 2020, and the couple now has a one-and-a-half-year-old son.
But last summer, Jason and Melissa were looking into having another child, and that's when they learned the embryo they used the first time did have the gene. Which means their son does.
"And we would have never known," said Jason. "We would have gone his whole life not knowing, until we would found out that he had stomach cancer."
Finding out now changed everything.
"There's an 80% likelihood, in his lifetime, he's going to develop cancer," said Jason.
When their son turns 15, Jason says he'll need a total gastrectomy, based on their history.
The lawsuit alleges HRC fraudulently concealed information about previous mistakes and their ability to catch mistakes. Separate allegations of negligence and battery are in arbitration.
"HRC promised Melissa and Jason that it was not going to transfer an embryo that had the stomach cancer gene," said their attorney Adam Wolf. "Everybody was incredibly clear about that, and that's why their embryos went through genetic testing."
HRC says part of the issue is the genetic testing, sharing a statement with ABC7 that reads in part:
"We deeply empathize with this family's situation. However, the patients associated with the case sought genetic testing and genetic counseling outside of HRC Fertility, and with an outside party ..."
Jason and Melissa say HRC suggested they get testing done, and that the testing company sent accurate results, which HRC - in Jason and Melissa's words- simply misread.
Beyond the lawsuit, the couple hopes their experience will push the process to become more transparent.
"Nothing they can do can't make it right," said Melissa Diaz. "Like, what's going to stop my son from going through all this? Nothing. So I'm just ... I'm very upset, very angry, very disappointed that I trusted a professional clinic and ended up doing the complete opposite of what we wanted."
Below is HRC Fertility's full statement:
At HRC Fertility, our mission is to provide world-class care to all our patients struggling with parenthood. The family planning journey requires many difficult choices. We take all of our patients' choices and concerns very seriously and are committed to providing the highest quality of care.
We deeply empathize with this family's situation. However, the patients associated with the case sought genetic testing and genetic counseling outside of HRC Fertility, and with an outside party; they wished to have a male embryo transferred, which we carried out according to the family's explicit wishes and in accordance with the highest level of care.
At HRC Fertility, our mission is to provide quality and compassionate care to all our patients struggling with parenthood and we understand that family planning requires many difficult choices. We offer a variety of fertility procedures so all families, regardless of challenges, can have the opportunity to become parents. We have successfully helped thousands of individuals, couples and families become loving parents, including the patients involved in this story.
We also stand by the professionalism and expertise of our medical staff and pride ourselves on adhering to the highest standards for patient care, patient records, results, and testing at all our locations. Since 1988, we have remained dedicated to helping hopeful parents build families through assisted reproductive technology, compassion, expertise, innovation, cutting-edge research and personalized care.