Family files lawsuit over lost embryos at University Hospitals

Faith Castro
March 13, 2018

Some eggs and embryos at a San Francisco fertility center may no longer be viable after a storage tank malfunction.

Dr. Kevin Doody is lab director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Women freeze eggs in order to postpone pregnancy until a later date or to have a supply for in vitro fertilization attempts.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Robert DiCello of DiCello, Levitt & Casey, is on behalf of Amber and Elliott Ash, who had two embryos stored with UH.

That embryologist, Herbert said, "immediately rectified" the problem by refilling the tank. And a larger group whose tissue was unaffected. "Anger is a big part of the phone call", Herbert said of his discussions with patients. "Our goal is to provide all the patients we see with some kind of a family". The increased temperature risks damage to the eggs and embryos.

The dilemma for those involved is that their eggs and embryos have to be completely thawed to determine whether they are still viable, but if thawed, they can not be refrozen.

The Pacific Fertility Center said a piece of equipment in its cyro-storage laboratory "lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time" on March 4.

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In a class action lawsuit, they allege the hospital failed "to maintain, inspect, monitor, and/or test their liquid nitrogen storage tanks". The number of eggs and embryos affected was not disclosed.

University Hospitals now faces multiple lawsuits following an incident at its Fertility Clinic that compromised hundreds of eggs and embryos stored in liquid nitrogen. "This was a bad incident", Herbert said, "but I was reassured that.he did everything anybody could ever want to do". "The clinic has reported the incident to the College of American Pathologists, which certifies labs, and the overseers of California's tissue banks", Herbert said. They said they were told over the weekend that their embryos are no longer viable.

The family also says the hospital did not notify them of the issue for almost a week.

According to the Pacific Fertility website, egg-freezing costs $8,345 for the first round and $6,995 for each subsequent round. The only way to determine if they've been damaged is to let them thaw, but they can not be frozen again.

"We just want to hold UH accountable, that they should make this right", said UH patient Kate Plants. In 1982, he helped to develop one of the nation's earliest reproductive technology programs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"At this point, we do not know the viability of all of the stored eggs and embryos, although we do know some have been impacted", said Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, in a videoposted Thursday on Facebook.

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