- A 29-year-old discovered she’s not genetically related to her dad after using a home DNA kit.
- A new lawsuit alleges the hospital used another man’s sperm in her parent’s fertility treatment.
- The fertility industry isn’t tightly regulated in the US, leading to mixups, the law firm says.
When Jessica Harvey Galloway and her husband asked for Ancestry.com kits for Christmas 2020, they hoped the gift would connect them with Galloway’s Italian relatives ahead of their trip to Europe.
But instead, the kits revealed that Galloway, 29, has no Italian blood and isn’t genetically related to her father, the parent with Italian heritage, a new lawsuit claims. Galloway’s biological father, the suit alleges, is a stranger whose sperm was wrongly used instead of her father’s during a fertility treatment back in 1991.
Galloway, who took her husband’s last name when she married, and her family are speaking out to demand more stringent regulation of the fertility industry, and to hold the hospital and doctor involved in the mixup accountable.
“As a husband and a father, it’s extremely difficult to watch your family in pain, and the source of the pain is something that I’ll never be able to change,” Galloway’s father Mike Harvey said in a press conference hosted by their law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise.
“Learning that your entire reality isn’t what you believed it to be is hard to explain. It’s like waking up in someone else’s life.”
Her parents underwent intrauterine insemination to conceive Jessica in 1991
Mike and Jeanine Harvey said they underwent intrauterine insemination, or the clinical insertion of sperm into the uterus, to help conceive their daughter in 1991.
Mike Harvey had provided a sperm sample to be used in the procedure, their lawyers said.
For nearly three decades, the family said they had no reason to believe Galloway wasn’t biologically theirs. They trusted the hospital, Summa Health System in Ohio, and their doctor, Dr. Nicholas Spirtos. Galloway grew up proud of her Italian heritage and confident in her health risks — Mike Harvey’s family lived well into their 90s and had no history of cancer,
But after receiving the Ancestry.com results, Galloway’s identity was shattered.
“We can no longer share our little private Italian jokes or enjoy our little Italian get-togethers — it’s just too painful for her,” Jeanine Harvey said in the press conference. “Her heritage has literally been stripped away from her.”
Galloway spent months using Ancestry.com, Facebook, help from a genealogist, and additional testing to identify her biological father. The man and his wife had undergone a fertility treatment at the same clinic and on the same day as the Harveys, she said in the press conference.
It’s unclear what happened to Mike Harvey’s sperm. “Did the clinic use his sperm in another patient’s procedure? And who’s the other patient? Don’t they have a right to kow the truth?” Jeanine Harvey said.
According to Peiffer Wolf, the law firm, the hospital and Spirtos haven’t provided any answers, offered to conduct their own tests, or requested to meet with the family. The lawsuit accuses them of medical malpractice, battery, lack of informed consent, negligence, failed safeguarding of genetic material, and more.
In a statement to Insider, Mike Bernstein, the system director for corporate communications at Summa Health, said the organization takes the allegation seriously and understands the impact it has on the family.
“At this point, we have not met with the family or conducted testing of our own,” he wrote. “Given the very limited information that we have and the amount of time that has passed, it remains our hope that the attorneys representing the family will work with us to make that next step a priority.”
This is not the first fertility mixup
Peiffer Wolf says it’s handled hundreds of cases of fertility center misconduct, ranging from misplaced embryos to doctors using their own sperm in IVF treatment without consent.
In 2019, a New York City couple sued LA-based CHA Fertility Center after they learned they had carried two other couples’ boys to term. Last year, a LA couple sued their fertility clinic after an embryo mixup led them to get pregnant with another couple’s child while that couple got pregnant with and began raising theirs.
Peiffer Wolf has pushed for national legislation for better oversight of IVF and fertility clinics, which it said are less regulated than barbershops and hair salons.
“I know that we are not alone in our pain, so many other families have gone through the same kind of unimaginable circumstances and have been forced to put the pieces of their lives back together,” Galloway said in the press conference. “It’s not fair to them, just like it’s not fair to my family and I. … This has to stop.”