In a case that one lawyer described as "one for the record books," a white couple in Northern Ireland are suing a fertility clinic after an in-virto fertilization blunder caused the woman to give birth to a mixed-race baby.
The married couple, whose names have not been revealed, say in court papers that their lives have been devastated by the mixup, which have included unfounded accusations of extramarital affairs.
The 47-year-old businessman and his 46-year-old wife started treatment at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in 1998. They asked for “white Caucasian” donor sperm, but the woman was fertilized with “Caucasian cape colored” sperm, and gave birth to a dark-skinned boy, now 10 years old.
Experts say the sperm is South African in origin and is a mixture of white, black and Malay — which means children born from it can be either black or white.
In what is believed to the first case of its kind in Britain, the couple are seeking damages against the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. The case is due to begin in September.
The clinic's mistake has cost the couple dearly.
“We can’t go out together because people openly stare at us," the father told a London newspaper.
“My wife has been asked if she’s had an affair with an Indian man on holiday. In public, she’ll shrug it off. But in private, she’s often in tears.”
"As my son grows older, he's becoming more and more confused, and he's suffered racial taunts in school, with other pupils asking: 'Where's your father from?' He's been called a nigger. He can see I look completely different from him and knows something is wrong, but doesn't know what.
"We live in a small community, which is predominantly white, so people notice and make assumptions, which is stressful and hurtful. Our lives have been ruined by this mistake.'"
Although the couple’s daughter, born three years earlier and conceived through the same batch of fertilized eggs, was born light-skinned, her brother is dark-skinned.
The clinic apologized to the couple in 2003, but they have been fighting ever since to win damages for the disaster.