Italy: Custody battle over IVF mix-up babies

Twin babies

Twin babies born this week in Italy are at the centre of an unprecedented custody battle after an apparent blunder at a fertility clinic in Rome.

The biological parents of the children are hoping that the courts will rule in their favour after the their embryos were implanted into a different couple during an in vitro fertilization procedure at the end of last year, the Italian edition of The Local news website reports. The biological parents's own IVF treatment ended in failure, but DNA tests later showed that they were the biological parents of twins being carried by another woman. The babies were born this week by caesarean section, adding a further complication to the court process, La Stampa newspaper says.

But the unnamed couple have an uphill task on their hands, since Italian law recognises the woman who gives birth to a child is their legal mother. And the birth parents are adamant that they won't be parting with the babies. "We are happy. Very happy: our children are born, they're very well and we have already registered their birth," says the birth mother, named only as Francesca. "No one will be able to take them from us," she tells La Stampa.

The case highlights the high emotions that surround IVF treatment, with one lawyer involved in the case saying it would be "very distressing" for both couples. Speaking to the BBC last year, Lisa Jardine, former chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK said private clinics are in the business of "marketing hope" to would-be parents, and that two thirds of couples have to come to terms with the heartbreak of failure.

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