Arab Couple Sues Hospital Over Unneeded Fertility Treatments

'I could have been a father 10 years ago and saved my wife the treatments and hospitalization,' says husband.

Six years of fertility treatment brought untold stress and disappointment to a couple from an Arab community in central Israel. The claim they filed last week against the Clalit health maintenance organization states the pain of those six years could have been avoided had doctors instructed the husband to undergo a straightforward 35-minute fertility procedure.

The claim, filed by attorneys Nadia Awid and Assaf Posner, states that six months after marrying in 1988, the couple contacted Clalit's women's health clinic due to her inability to get pregnant. Tests showed her to be able to conceive, but her husband infertile. The man, whose initials are A.K., had undergone a procedure in his youth for undescended testes.

Staff at the clinic told the couple the woman could only get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, and referred them to the fertility clinic at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

The claim says in September 1999 medical staff told the husband his sperm cells were defective, due to varicose veins in his testes hindering sperm movement.

Although the problem could have been solved with a catheter, he continued to undergo unnecessary treatments including ultrasound and blood tests. In November 1999 A.K. was sent to a urological exam, where doctors told him they had spotted a cancerous growth in his testes.

"My father died before I was born," he said. "I would wake up at night and think to myself that I didn't get to say the word 'Dad' to anyone, and I also wouldn't get to hear it," he recounted.

"Then they tell me there's a possibility of cancer, and after that my wife is hospitalized because of an ovary infection, and I just lost it. I was afraid for her because of all the treatments, the medications and injections."

"We stopped going to social events because people always ask us, 'What happened with you? Why don't you have anything yet?' And for us, in the Arab community, there's a lot of pressure," he added, noting that his wife underwent 24 fertility treatments, in which 650 eggs were removed from her body.

In December 2004 A.K. found a male fertility clinic and booked himself an appointment, at which he was instructed to get treatment for the vascular block in his testes. He paid $10,000 for the 35-minute procedure, and was told by doctors he and his wife would be able to conceive within four months. In April, his wife told him she was finally pregnant.

Their first son was born in January 2006, followed by another son two years later.

"I could have been a father 10 years ago - I would have saved my wife the treatments and hospitalization," he said. "This was suffering which could have been prevented if not for doctor's negligence and dismissive attitude."

A response from Clalit and Rabin Medical Center stated, "The aforementioned lawsuit has not set been filed against the hospital. When it does, we will know the details and prepare a statement of defense."