Family files lawsuit over lost embryos at Cleveland hospital

Kenny Tucker
March 13, 2018

Officials at the University Hospital Fertility Center in Cleveland said Thursday that a similar failure may have damaged 2,000 eggs and embryos.

Egg freezing has grown in popularity, with an estimated 20,000 U.S. women who have had the procedure, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. The increased temperature risks damage to the eggs and embryos.

"You don't even think about what's happening in the lab", said patient Katie Miller, a patient who has stored embryos stored at the center.

The clinic is sending letters to about 500 patients "that may have been involved in this tank", Herbert said. And a larger group whose tissue was unaffected. 'Our goal is to provide all the patients we see with some kind of a family.

According to Herbert, the extent to which the chemical failure damaged the eggs and embryos remains unclear. In the case in OH, the facility said the only way to determine the viability of the eggs and the embryos of 700 patients is to fully thaw them.

The Pennsylvania couple's lawsuit against University Hospitals in Cleveland says they were beginning the process last week of transferring the frozen embryo when they later were told something went wrong. The hospital issued an apology after the unexplained malfunction caused temperatures inside the storage tank to rise. "The medical community calls it tissue". One to three eggs may be stored in a unit.

"There was a gradient between the top of the cryo tank and the bottom and the bottom stayed at the proper levels so we are now looking at what specimens existed in that gradient, but obviously our concern is that there is potentially compromised embryos and our fear is a significant number of embryos and eggs have been compromised", Dr. Liu said.

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A spokesperson with the clinic told the post that an estimated 15 percent of the clinic's total number of eggs and embryos were in the damaged tank.

Herbert told the Post his discussions with patients were emotional.

The clinic in California informed about 400 patients of the failure, which occurred March 4.

The San Francisco-based clinic has brought in a team to investigate the malfunction.

The eggs and embryos in tank #4 had been in storage for as long as 10 years, though the tank still was in active use, Herbert said. Once they are thawed, they can't be refrozen. If they are not, he said, "we are going to make our patients happy one way or another". He moved to San Francisco in 1990 and, with colleagues, purchased Pacific Fertility Center nine years later.

The first class action lawsuit has been filed against University Hospitals following a refrigerator malfunction that has left the viability of 2,000 eggs and embryos in question. Some dated to the 1980s.

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