Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Second fertility clinic malfunction puts 400 patients' eggs, embryos at risk

Second fertility clinic malfunction puts 400 patients' eggs, embryos at risk

At this time, we don't yet know the viability of these eggs and embryos. A law firm representing the Cleveland patients plans to file a lawsuit Monday.

University Hospitals - which runs the fertility clinic - released a statement apologizing for the incident and promising to help patients in any way possible.

When the tank at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco stopped working properly on 4 March, temperatures inside rose. The eggs were then transferred to the storage tank.

But there's no way to know until the eggs and embryos are thawed - and they can't be safely re-frozen.

The same weekend of the UH failure, the Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco, experienced an unexplained loss of liquid nitrogen, resulting in the potential destruction of thousands of embryos and eggs.

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"Thousands of families have entrusted us with their eggs, embryos and sperm over the last 27 years and we're doing everything in our power to protect them", said Dr. Valerie Shavell, physician of reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Herbert said in an interview that he and colleagues began making phone calls on Saturday night to some 400 patients who had all their eggs or embryos stored in the clinic's storage tank #4.

Herbert said that in his 35 years of cryopreservation it is an unusual event to have two clinics and two liquid nitrogen storage tanks fail. "We've actually engaged an outside expert to analyze and drill down to see what actually happened", said Dr. James Liu, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UH MacDonald Women's Hospital. Some of them stored their eggs about a decade ago and a few even as early as the 1980s, media reported.

A fertility expert commented that the almost simultaneous storage failures at two fertility clinics across the country from each other were "beyond stunning" but that it appeared to be just a coincidence. At the University Hospitals Fertility Center, temperatures in a tissue storage bank suddenly fluctuated, potentially affecting the more than 2,000 samples of over 500 patients.

"We are truly sorry this happened and for the anxiety that this will surely cause".

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University Hospitals officials say procedure fees could be waived for future treatment, according to CNN affiliate WEWS. The couple had been storing the embryos ever since Elliott received a cancer diagnosis in 2003, and were hoping to bring a genetic sibling to their two-year-old son who was, himself, conceived via in vitro fertilization. UH has also launched an investigation to determine the cause of the freezer malfunction.

"We understand why some people might feel compelled to take this step", a hospital spokesperson said.

"They turned on the TV and saw it themselves and thought 'We have just lost our family's most valuable treasure, '" DiCello said.

University Hospitals said it is investigating the incident.

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