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Lawyers to investigate Chicago sperm bank malfunction

23 July 2012
Appeared in BioNews 666

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.

The men, who had stored their sperm at a facility owned by the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation (NMFF) in Chicago, obtained a court order requiring the disclosure of all relevant documentation including inspection records and maintenance reports to the men's lawyers.

'Today's order ensures both the preservation of all critical components of the system's failure as well as all documents pertaining to that failure', said Michael Demetrio of law firm Corboy & Demetrio, who is representing the men.

The disclosure will allow lawyers to investigate details released in a press release by the NMFF that a cryogenic storage tank used for storing sperm samples malfunctioned on two dates in April. Additionally, the alarm system failed to alert technicians and many samples were destroyed by the time the breakdown was discovered on the following Monday.

The three men, who claim their sperm was among the samples destroyed, were all affected by illnesses or were undergoing medical treatments that could leave them infertile, their lawyers said.

'This is an unforgivable event that has led these three individuals - these three victims - to not be able to start families of their own in the future', said Matthew Jenkins, also from Corboy & Demetrio. 'They are absolutely devastated', he added.

The NMFF said nearly 200 fertility patients were alerted of the equipment failure. About 100 samples were tested and scheduled to be discarded, but according to a statement, the foundation 'expressed hope that many of the samples would still be viable for IVF procedures'.

Dr Phillip Roemer, the foundation's chief medical officer, said in a statement: 'We deeply regret that this occurred and understand how upsetting this can be to our patients, so our primary focus has been on them and their needs'.

Many fertility patients choose to have their sperm, embryos or eggs preserved so that reproductive procedures could allow them to become parents in the future. However, Josephine Johnston from the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, New York, said 'the fact that this kind of malfunction could happen at a fertility clinic is a frightening piece of news for fertility patients in general'.

3 Men Claim Northwestern Malfunction Destroyed Their Frozen Sperm
CBS Chicago |  16 July 2012
3 men want to know how their frozen sperm was destroyed
Chicago Tribune |  16 July 2012
Corboy & Demetrio Obtains Order Requiring Northwestern To Turn over Evidence Of Sperm Destruction
PR Newswire |  19 July 2012
Men sue after preserved sperm destroyed
WGNTV |  16 July 2012
Sperm bank malfunction might affect up to 200 fertility patients, operators say
Chicago Tribune |  17 July 2012
Sperm Lawsuit? Chicago Men File Motion Over Frozen Sperm Allegedly Destroyed By Equipment Failure
Huffington Post |  18 July 2012
Three men whose frozen sperm was destroyed by hospital may now never have children
Mail Online |  18 July 2012
12 March 2018 - by Lone Hørlyck 
A temperature fluctuation in a storage bank has compromised at least 2100 frozen eggs and embryos in a fertility clinic in Cleveland Ohio...
17 August 2015 - by Ruth Retassie 
A court case has begun involving a man's claim against a US fertility clinic and his ex-girlfriend, who allegedly procured vials of his sperm without his permission to conceive a child...
24 June 2013 - by Dr James Heather 
The board of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland, has been told to pay for a couple's private fertility treatment and alter their policies after making a 'number of failures' when providing IVF...
12 December 2011 - by Jessica Ware 
A fertility clinic in Kent is under investigation after reports that staff may have lost a woman's embryos. Alison Austin-Hennessy, 31, said she and her husband Michael were informed by a consultant at the private Chaucer Hospital that their embryos had been misplaced....
28 November 2011 - by Jessica Ware 
A man is suing a US fertility clinic in negligence for 'mental and economic injuries' after alleging it used his 'stolen' sperm to impregnate his girlfriend without his consent....
21 November 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Apologies have been issued by a Welsh IVF clinic following the accidental destruction of three patients' sperm samples. The samples, known as straws, were collected from patients undergoing treatments for blood disorders and cancer that may affect their fertility. An investigation is underway as to why no senior staff were informed when the samples were destroyed in March this year...
4 May 2010 - by Seil Collins 
The number of reported mistakes at IVF centres in England and Wales has doubled over one year, rising from 182 in 2007/08 to 334 in 2008/09. Incidents range from technical failures to serious mix-ups. Cases where embryos have been lost, implanted into the wrong patient, or fertilised with the wrong sperm have all been reported....
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