It had to happen: white parents who underwent in-vitrofertilization have given birth to black twins. The whitemother, who lives in the U.K., wants to keep the babies, buta black couple claims they belong to them.

IVF involves mixing of the father’s sperm with the mother’seggs in the laboratory. The resulting fertilized embryos arethen implanted into the mother. In this case, either thewrong sperm was used to fertilize the eggs or a blackcouple?s fertilized embryos were wrongly implanted into awhite woman.

DNA testing will be used to figure out who are thebiological parents of the twins. "With a definite list ofpossible candidates it will not take very long," says SammyLee, a consultant embryologist at the Portland Hospital inLondon. "You need to take a small blood sample from thechild and from each potential parent, isolate the DNA andrun a gel fingerprint. The parents will have bands thatmatch the child’s."

Lee says it’s possible to tell the race of an embryo before it’s implanted into a uterus, but the technique is costly,risks damaging the embryo and is usually thought to beunnecessary. "At the moment [the test] is in its earlystages and used mainly to test for cystic fibrosis," says Lee.

John Mills, chairman of the British Fertility Society, says,"There is a tiny risk [that such a mix-up could happen].There has been a great deal of tightening up of theprocedures in the last few years. Every sample is doubledchecked and labeled at every stage along the way – it is astight as the blood transfusion process."

This type of accident has supposedly only happened twicebefore. In 1998, Donna Fasano, a white woman from New York,gave birth to a black baby boy. In the Netherlands in 1993,sperm from two men was accidentally mixed, so a white womangave birth to one white and one black child. It does bringup the question of how many times such mix-ups have goneundetected, in cases where the babies were the same race as the mother.

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