Los Angeles Times
Clinic sued after baby has cancer gene
Five years ago, Jason Diaz underwent drastic surgery to combat a rare type of cancer. He had his stomach removed. Diffuse gastric cancer is an inherited disease, and it’s one that he did not wish to pass on.
So when he and wife, Melissa, decided to have children, they made a plan. They would go the in vitro fertilization route with genetic screening. Their baby then wouldn’t have to suffer the same disease as his dad.
Now, the couple is suing a Pasadena fertility clinic. They say a doctor transferred an embryo with the stomach-cancer mutation, and their child, now a 1-yearold, will eventually have to have his stomach removed.
“Every day, my heart is hurting for my baby boy,” said Jason Diaz, “knowing the pain and challenges he has ahead of him.”
The couple, fighting back tears, spoke Wednesday at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Jason Diaz, 32, had his stomach removed in 2018 after being diagnosed with diffuse gastric cancer. Doctors discovered that he had a rare mutation in the CDH1 gene, which is linked to a heightened risk — more than 80% — for such cancers.
The couple, taking steps to ensure that any embryo Melissa Diaz would carry to term would not have the mutation, chose to go to Huntington Reproductive Center Fertility in Pasadena. In January 2021, she was impregnated via embryo transfer at the facility, the complaint says. The boy was born in September.
In July 2022, the couple sought to have another baby at HRC Fertility by IVF. An HRC employee sent Melissa a form showing the embryos that were stored during the first procedure.
The first line of the form showed an embryo transferred to Melissa in January 2021 with a “mutant allele detected” for hereditary gastric diffuse cancer. Because of the transfer date, she realized that it was her child.
The complaint alleges that when the Diazes reached out to the facility, they were met with silence. In October, they received an “altered, falsified version” of the same report.
This second report, included in the complaint, was the same as the first but without key details: the handwritten notes about which embryos were transferred and when, as well as the gender of each embryo.
In Wednesday’s virtual news conference, Melissa described her son as a “very happy boy” who “loves seeing new things.”
The complaint states that the child will develop cancer without a preventive gastrectomy, or stomach removal. That procedure comes with severe and lifelong medical complications.
HRC, an affiliate of Keck Medicine of USC, issued a statement Wednesday. “We deeply empathize with this family’s situation,” the statement said. The Diazes “wished to have a male embryo transferred, which we carried out according to the family’s explicit wishes and in accordance with the highest level of care.”
The doctor named in the complaint was not listed on the HRC Pasadena website as of Wednesday.