University Hospitals Fertility Clinic Lost Up to 4,000 Frozen Eggs and Embryos in Tank Failure
Women choose to freeze their eggs, and couples to freeze embryos, for a lot of reasons. But underneath almost all of them is an undercurrent of hope: that someday, in the future, those eggs or embryos will result in babies. That optimism is what helps many people through a complicated – and expensive – process of extracting, freezing, and (eventually) thawing and implanting.
It is also what makes the freezer malfunction at University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland so heartbreaking. According to multiple news sources, something went awry with a long-term storage tank at the facility, which caused the temperature to drop sometime Saturday night (March 3rd) and Sunday morning (March 4th). The Plain Dealer reported “University Hospitals has notified about 700 fertility patients and their families that the frozen eggs and embryos they had stored at one of its hospitals may have been damaged over the weekend when the temperature rose in a storage tank.”
Dr. James Liu, Chair of UH Cleveland Medical Center’s department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said there is evidence of damage. However, the only way to know for sure is to thaw out the eggs and embryos. Because the freezing process can damage the specimens, there is no safe way to thaw and then re-freeze the specimens from the tank. He told the paper “Some samples that were unfrozen for scheduled procedures this week were not viable.”
As of March 27, 2018, approximately 950 patients are believed to have been affected. In total, more than 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos were lost. You can to read the updated letter from UH Fertility Clinic here.
A horrific coincidence
The same exact weekend, almost the exact same situation unfolded at Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco. CBS News reported that the clinic’s President, Dr. Carl Herbert, said close to 400 patients have already been informed, and that officials “also sent out emails explaining what had happened to two other groups — roughly 100 patients who had tissue in both the problematic tank and another tank, and another, much larger group whose stored eggs and embryos weren’t affected.”
The clinic has not thawed any embryos, Dr. Herbert said, but they did thaw out some eggs – all of which remained viable. The malfunctioning tank “contained ‘several thousand’ eggs and embryos. Clinic spokesman Alden Romney said that represents as much as 15 percent of the total stored at the facility,” per the Washington Post.
The two clinics are not related or connected in any way.
What happens next?
Dr. Liu told The Plain Dealer that UH is asking each patient directly how he, she or they would like to proceed. Patients who wish to transfer their eggs or embryos to another facility may do so. No discussion has been forthcoming about compensation.
The Clinic does have a telephone number set up for patients who have been contacted about their samples: 216-286-9740. You can also reach out to Clinic here. The facility is located at:
1000 Auburn Dr.
Beachwood, OH 44122
Filing a lawsuit against the University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland
Two lawsuits have already been filed against the clinic: the first by a couple in Ohio, and the second by a couple in Pennsylvania. The first lawsuit, on behalf of Amber and Elliot Ash, seeks class action status. The couple had two embryos stored at the facility, both of which have been deemed non-viable. The Pennsylvania couple, which has spent the last eight years trying to conceive, told the Associated Press that “they were beginning the process last week of transferring the frozen embryo when they later were told something went wrong.”
Crandall & Pera Law currently accepting additional clients with claims tied to the freezer malfunction at University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland. We urge you to contact us if you stored eggs or embryos at the location, or if you have been contacted by UH officials.
Crandall & Pera Law is a premier medical malpractice law firm with offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced trial attorneys, please call 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form.