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US hospital sued for keeping embryo without mother's knowledge

25 March 2019
Appeared in BioNews 992

A Massachusetts woman is suing a hospital for storing her embryos for years without telling her.

Marisa Cloutier-Bristol began IVF treatment with her then-husband in 2004 but was told it was not possible to proceed because all the embryos were abnormal. She believed the embryos were discarded, but in April 2017, she was invoiced $500 for their storage.

Her lawsuit against the Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, claims that the hospital's carelessness in failing to disclose the storage of embryos for 13 years, caused her severe emotional distress. 

'It's like grieving a child that I could've had. I feel completely and totally robbed,' Cloutier-Bristol said. 'That was a piece of John. It was a sibling for my son.' 

Cloutier-Bristol's first husband, John Cloutier, with whom she had a son prior to attempting IVF, died unexpectedly in 2006. She attempted IVF treatment unsuccessfully again in 2008 with her current husband Mike Bristol. 

'In that whole process with Mike, there was never any mention of us having a frozen embryo or my having a frozen embryo with my husband John,' she told the Providence Journal

Cloutier-Bristol's lawyer, Jeffrey Catalano, explained that the medical records also revealed that – contrary to the standard practice for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine – the Cloutiers were not asked to complete consent forms detailing their wishes for the embryos in the event of either death or divorce. This means that although Cloutier-Bristol is currently paying for the embryo to be stored, neither she nor the hospital can do anything with it. 

Catalano's firm reports that Cloutier-Bristol is seeking accountability, damages for significant emotional distress and an apology. 

The Women and Infants Hospital would not comment on the case but interim director Carol Wheeler told WBZ TV News that 'the hospital maintains a commitment to open and honest communication with all patients about all aspects of their fertility treatment'. 

No trial date has been announced.

2 August 2021 - by Sarah Wood-Heath 
Since 1991, the number of IVF cycles has increased significantly with success rates also growing…
4 November 2019 - by Eleri Williams 
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) event 'Trouble in Store? How Not to Break the Law when Storing Embryos and Gametes' took place at Hill Dickinson LLP in London on 29 October 2019...
18 March 2019 - by Martha Henriques 
A group of women is bringing the UK's first legal challenge to the ten-year limit on preserving frozen eggs...
18 March 2019 - by Georgia Everett 
In the first case of its kind, a lawyer will represent an aborted embryo in an Alabama court, potentially setting a precedent that could affect fertility treatments such as IVF...
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