Ruling sought in sperm mix-up case

SINGAPORE - Thomson Fertility Centre (TFC), locked in a legal tussle over how much it should pay a couple suing it for using the wrong sperm, wants the High Court to settle two issues first.

One is whether the sums payable should include the child's upkeep until she grows up and is financially self-reliant.

Two, whether it should pay provisional damages in case she suffers an ailment that is rooted in the biological father's genes.

It wants the court to rule on these issues in court papers filed last month. A High Court hearing has been set for next month.

TFC and three others are being sued over a mix-up in sperm samples that led to a woman having a baby, now two years old, with a stranger's sperm instead of her husband's.

The woman, now 36, alleges negligence and wants the court to assess the amount of damages payable to her, citing personal losses, trauma and long-term costs for the child. The sums are to be assessed by the court.

TFC has made clear that it accepted responsibility for the clinical errors in the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) process that led to the incident in 2010. But, it also claims, this is not tantamount to providing for the child's upkeep until she grows up and is financially independent.

The mother of two, represented by lawyer S. Palaniappan, cannot be named as a minor is involved.

The list of expenses that TFC, defended by Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming and two others, wants the court to rule on include the child's education and upkeep in Beijing, where she is expected to live with her parents and the older child, medical and other costs.

The court is also being asked to rule if TFC should provide for provisional damages until 2035, when the child turns 25, to offset any genetic condition or diseases "attributable to the father's genes".

If the court agrees, these items will be assessed together with the other damages sought.

It is understood that court opinion abroad from limited cases is divided.

An Australian appeals court in 2009 awarded damages for the cost of raising an unwanted additional child conceived through IVF. But a British case cited public policy reasons for not providing damages for the child's upkeep.

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