California fertility clinic sued for using embryo with deadly cancer gene

by Jacob Fuller

A California couple sued a Pasadena-based fertility clinic on Wednesday, saying it allegedly implanted an embryo carrying a rare gene that causes deadly stomach cancer and then falsified records to cover up its mistake.

In their lawsuit against HRC Fertility, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jason and Melissa Diaz said their son, now a year old, will require total stomach removal surgery as a young adult to prevent or treat the cancer. They said they went to HRC Fertility specifically to avoid having a child with the gene, which Jason carries.

Jason had total stomach removal in 2018 after developing the rare cancer, known as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, and two of his aunts died of stomach cancer in their 40s, according to the lawsuit, which also names the HRC doctor who worked with the couple, Bradford Kolb, as a defendant.

“We went to HRC Fertility to break the family curse of cancer and early death,” he said in a statement. “Trusting Dr. Kolb and HRC turned out to be the biggest mistake of our lives.”

HRC and Kolb could not immediately be reached for comment.

Melissa Diaz had her eggs retrieved in 2020 and those eggs were used to create embryos that were tested for the gene. Kolb transferred one embryo without the gene in 2020, but that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, according to the lawsuit.

An HRC employee then told Melissa that they had another embryo without the gene, and she responded that the couple wanted to transfer that embryo. In fact, the employee was wrong and the embryo did carry the gene, the lawsuit said.

In January 2021, Kolb transferred the embryo. The Diazes said they did not learn that their son carried the gene until after he was born that September, when they saw it mentioned in handwritten notes on a report of the January 2021 transfer.

Melissa then requested her medical records, and HRC produced a “falsified” version with the handwritten notes removed, according to the lawsuit.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters