A white woman gave birth to one white and one mixed-race child after her white husband’s sperm was mixed with that of another client during an in vitro fertilization.
“This is an exceptional case, a rare accident,” Professor Egbert te Velde, who heads the in vitro fertilization department at Utrecht’s Academic Hospital, said Saturday.
The test-tube baby blunder, publicized for the first time this week, has stirred up a sensation the Netherlands, already debating the ethics of scientific assistance to the reproductive process.
The woman gave birth to the twin boys in December 1993, but contacted the hospital only several months later when the skin of one child had begun to darken.
According to Te Velde, the mix-up likely was due to a lab technician mistakenly placing sperm from the woman’s husband in a pipette containing sperm from another man.
He would not disclose the identities of the people involved, nor the race of the unintended sperm donor.
But the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported that he was a native of the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, many of whose natives are of both Caucasian and African descent.
Te Velde said pipettes used in the in vitro fertilization laboratory are discarded at the end of every procedure.
But in this case, he said, sperm from both men were used to fertilize the woman’s ova, successfully producing three embryos that were placed in her womb.
Two of them survived and the woman gave birth to the twins.
The hospital and the parents did not publicly disclose the mix-up until after a DNA test was conducted to determine that the husband could not be the parent of the mixed-race child.
The couple has kept both children, said hospital spokeswoman Anke Leys.
Te Velde said the hospital had contacted the man believed to be the unintended sperm provider and will probably ask him to undergo tests to determine if he is in fact the second father involved.
“He was of course overwhelmed, but positive,” said Te Velde.