Don Imus' slanderous comments and the Duke lacrosse players' dropped rape charges have moved race back into America's consciousness. But another case that may very well come to represent the future of racial conflict is quietly making its way through the New York State Supreme Court. Nancy and Thomas Andrews (pictured above) are suing a Park Avenue fertility clinic for botching the IVF procedure leading to their second daughter's birth (Jessica, pictured between the couple).
According to DNA tests, the clinic mistakenly fertilized Nancy's egg with sperm from someone other than her husband.Assisted reproduction errors like this are certainly unfortunate, though not entirely unprecedented. But what's extraordinary here is that a significant part of the Andrews' lawsuit sought relief not simply for the mixup, but for the specific "harm" inflicted by having a "black child."
The Andrews argue that had the procedure gone as planned, Jessica would not only have been related to both of them but would also have a lighter skin tone similar to their first daughter (pictured above to the far right). Jessica's darker skin suggests to the Andrews that her biological father is someone of African descent.
The Andrews make no bones about their particular disappointment with Jessica's skin color, having described their anguish in the lawsuit:
• "We underwent a difficult and complex medical procedure for the sole purpose of bearing a child of our own."
• "While we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her."
• "We fear that our daughter will be the object of scorn and ridicule by other children, both in school and as she grows up."
• "She may be subjected to physical and emotional illness as a result of not being the same race as her parents and siblings."
There's certainly a lot going on here. But what strikes me most is that despite their disappointment in Jessica's color, Nancy is curiously dark herself. She is a native of the Dominican Republic - a nation with a strong African heritage. While sensational headlines such as "Black Baby is Born to White Pair" might sell papers, what gets lost is how genes express themselves differently in each person.
Put differently, it's quite possible that Jessica could have had a similarly dark skin tone even if Thomas' sperm was used. That's simply how heredity and skin complexion work; every Black family I know spans a hue that reflects this genetic roulette. (Think about the Cosby show and why the cast's dramatic variation in skin tone never seemed all that strange.) This isn't to say that the Andrews should not care about the mixup. Rather, it is to suggest that their expectations are strangely misguided if they think their children's African heritage can somehow be washed away.The Andrews probably know that their daughters will never quite look like Malibu Barbie. But somehow I suspect that if an IVF mixup had led to Jessica having fair skin, light hair, and green eyes, the lawsuit - if it went forward at all - would be of a qualitatively different tenor. Which highlights the tragedy of this all: when the Andrews look at their 3-year- old little girl, they seem to see her through the same colorstruck lens as Don Imus'. And that surely is a pity.
Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Osagie Obasogie's Blog Posts, Race
CommentsAdd a Comment
Comment by Toni Hollinger, Sep 18th, 2008 10:48am
My nameis Toni Hollinger. I was a victim of this terrifying clinic. first of all I paid out of pocket. the care was so horrible. I
was told that I had a certain amount of eggs and live embryo's. then days later on the day I was to get the embryo's
transferred I was told that they all died on the same day. the doctor was so unprofessional he had no documents no
pictures to even prove to me that I even had embryo's. and when I asked for pictures he told me that he don't take pictures
of dead embryo's are bad embryo's. but how could that be? when you told me that I had live embryo's and I never got a
call to say that they were bad. then after taking all of that medication and told him I was having complication he never had
me to come in for a exam. what company would allow there doctors to only e-mail there patients? instead of them
contacting them by phone. and these are doctors who we are trusting to care for us while going through an experience of
depression . the staff is so fake and also unprofessional as well. they talk so highly of there services but you don't get what
you pay for. I believe at one time this clinic may have been a good clinic but they have forgotten what they are really there
for . women are there for more than to give them all their money. this was a waste of my time and money. when I requested
for my medical record since he couldn't no t show me what happen to my embryos and there pictures and written
documentation. when I received it I had another patient file in my record the same person who he had e-mailed me calling
me her name.then later on 9 days later a nurse called me on the phone asking me if my husband could come back in and
give them another sperm sample after we paid them to freeze the first sample which we had more than we needed. I asked
her what did she need it for she said for my embryo transfer.and this was after the embryos had supposed to have died.
now I am hearing from the investigator from hippa saying that the doctors office is saying that I requested for my full
medical records and then days later I called in and said that I only wanted the lab work. I only requested and talked to this
clinic when the doctor couldnt tell me what happen to my live embryos and my information and written documentations and
pictures which the doctor didn't have any of that. when I requested my medical records and when I recieved that incomplet
file me and my husband went in to the office when he came in from afghanistan and Talked to the Manager Karen
Rodrigez about my incomplet medical record and to get his file. she yelled what do you mean incomplete that is all you
have on file . so I went to talk to an attorney a couple days later he had me and my husband George Hollinger to sign his
own request to our complete file the clinic came back with over 100 sheets but when I requested for the same complte file
I received a different file also another patients file .and when the Medical board ask for the file they gave them a larg file
also even he gave them a toltal different medicine calendar than the one he gave me with very high dosages of medication .
and other false documentations aswell he is even wrote me saying that he don't take pictures of dead embryos and bad
embryos when the 3 embryos that I suppose to have had lived 5 days. he even told me that he had to get my husbands
sperm approve through the FDA I called the FDA and spoke with a represenative about the FDA regulations on IVF I
was told that if he called them to get a clearance on my husbands sperm then he must have been a donor because they
don't have to call to get a clearance on couples.this doctor told me and my husband that he had to throw my husbands
sperm away because he was infected with syphlis. the which I was not infected with it.he told us that he would have to go
and see a infectious doctor. so we called our doctor after we hung up with Dr. Saleh. my doctor Short told us to come
in. so we went in and told him what the doctor had told us.he called the infertility doctor Walid Saleh and ask him what
was the amount of the disease. he told him o.1 percent. he said that isn't a disease. doctor Saleh said that he was about to
call the FDA and the health department. Dr. Short said that the FDA is going to tell you the same thing. but at this point the
dr. Saleh tells Dr. Short that he wanted my husband to be treated.my husband did not have a disease but did get those
shots and went back to Afghanistan with antibiotics. 2 weeks later A nurse Mary Palmer called me from Misouri asking me
was I ready and prepared to move on with the Ivf for Sept 2007. I told her that Dr. Saleh threw away the frozen sample
she said what! I told her that he said that my husband was infected with a disease.she told me that she would call me
back and when she called back she said that Dr. Saleh said that he still had my husbands sperm. so later on I recieved a e
-mail from the doctor saying that there was no need for me to be pointing the finger at anyone when we haven't started the
process.and that wasn't his fault that we paid out of pocket and so many other thing. then he tells me that we could
proceed with the IVF if my husband has been treated and I had to get the natural killer cells test. I wasn't never informed
from him nor the clinic that I was to supose to have had thyroids. he had just had me to go get a physical and it was
negative. so I went on and took the test and the test came back negative again.I called the office and asked If I could get
my money back the rep Freda Simmons told me that if I had started the medication I couldn't get my money back. so I
went on with the procedure. on the day I came in for the synogram to check on how many eggs did I have he told me that
it looked like the medication didn't work like he wanted it to he expected more than the eggs that I had because he gave
me very high dosages of medication.I told him that he told me that all I needed was one egg.so the next day.I went in for a
egg transfer. and three of the nurses ask me how was I going to do a transfer without my husband I told them when they
asked that he was suppose to be somewhere thawing out. I had the nurse to go get my mom and told my mom what was
said. then the nurse was checking my vital signs and told me that my blood pressure was way too high for them to perform
the surgery.later I had to fill out a survey before going into the surgery room. which I though t was strange.the the
anesthesiologist came in to get me to go in the surgery room he checked my blood pressure and told me that it was way
too high and if I wanted him to give me something for it I told him yes.the doctor was no where around.then he told me that
when I say the doctor come through the door I wouldn't be put tp sleep. after I came out of surgery I was told by the
nurses and the anesthesioligist that I had 7 good eggs. later the Dr Saleh came in and told me that there was only 4 eggs he
took off my ovaries. later the anesthesioligist came back in I told him what the docotr had said he told me that he didn't
know why he told me that.the next day the doctor e-mailed me saying that he tried to reach me to tell me that there was 7
eggs and that 4 was good and that there was 3 embryos. I don't know why I have been put through this emotional
procedure. he took my money and treated me terrible.my mame is Toni Hollinger he sent me a email calling me Tina which
I thought that because my name was Toni then the incomplete record that they sent me had Tina Holt information in it.I had
no operative reports, nothing about my embryos, no pictures are nothing to do with the expensive procedure in it.there are
many women with some of the same problems that went to this same clinic.one of the front desk clerks call me and told me
that she was sorry that she couldn't tell me because she was still working there and that I was never on the appointment list
to have a Embryo transfer even afterI gave my eggs.
sincerely Toni Hollinger