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Malfunction at clinic may compromise frozen eggs and embryos

12 March 2018
Appeared in BioNews 941

A temperature fluctuation in a storage bank has compromised at least 2100 frozen eggs and embryos in a fertility clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

It is still unclear what caused the malfunction at the University Hospitals Fertility Centre, which may affect more than 500 fertility patients.

Patricia DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital said in a video posted on Facebook: 'We are so very sorry this happened and we want to do all that we can to support our patients and families through this very difficult time.'

The incident happened between Saturday and Sunday when there was no staff at the clinic. It was discovered on Sunday morning when staff arriving at the facility were alerted by an alarm. 

The University Hospitals announced an independent investigation is being planned to clarify the cause of the incident, which could be due to a technical malfunction or human error.

A class action lawsuit is being brought against the facility by law firm DiCello Levitt & Casey. They are encouraging other patients to join the suit, started by Amber and Elliot Ash, who had a frozen embryo in storage at the centre.

University Hospitals responded: 'We understand why some people might feel compelled to take this step. Any lawsuits being filed will have no bearing on the independent review being conducted.' 

Affected samples included donor eggs, eggs frozen for fertility preservation and eggs being used for fertility treatments. Only the top layers in the tank were affected while samples at the bottom of the tank were not compromised. The extent of the damage to the affected eggs and embryos is currently unclear; viability can only be established once implantation takes place. 

Sean Tipton, chief policy officer at American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said: '[It] is a tragedy. First and foremost, our hearts go out to the patients who have suffered this loss… we will work with our member clinics to help them take any steps needed to ensure such an event never happens again.'

7 May 2019 - by Suzi Denton 
An appeal court in Cleveland, Ohio, has ruled that a couple's embryos lost in a freezer-failure incident last year were not 'living persons', and should not therefore have been treated as patients rather than property...
28 January 2019 - by Georgia Everett 
Eight new lawsuits have been filed this week following the loss of 4000 eggs and embryos when a storage tank in a fertility clinic malfunctioned...
26 November 2018 - by Lone Hørlyck 
Experts have strongly criticised a claim that embryos lost during a storage tank failure at a fertility clinic were 'people'...
6 August 2018 - by Jen Willows 
An Ohio couple are continuing their legal fight to have their lost embryos declared to have the same legal status as people...
19 March 2018 - by Jen Willows 
A second US fertility clinic has reported a malfunction of a tank used to store frozen eggs and embryos...
10 October 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The latest data from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has shown that the number of adverse incidents in UK fertility clinics has increased slightly...
14 July 2014 - by Chee Hoe Low 
Hundreds of adverse events occur in UK fertility clinics each year, according to a report from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority...
23 July 2012 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Three men are considering legal action against a sperm bank in the USA after their frozen sperm samples were allegedly destroyed following a reported malfunction in the bank's storage system. Its operators have said the error could affect as many as 200 patients, reports the Chicago Tribune....
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