Nitrogen failure at SF fertility clinic; damage to frozen eggs unknown

Elliott Ash holding son Ethan

Egg and embryo storage tanks at two separate infertility centers, one in OH and the other in California, malfunctioned, leaving hundreds of hopeful parents devastated and seeking legal recourse.

Two fertility clinics across the country from each other experienced equipment failures on the same day that may have damaged hundreds of frozen eggs and embryos, something that a fertility expert called a stunning coincidence and that is already producing lawsuits from crestfallen couples.

In an unrelated event, more than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos were also left compromised at the University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland after a malfunction caused temperatures to drop in the freezers where they were stored.

University Hospitals officials said that that they are determined to help the patients who lost eggs and embryos, and that the lawsuit will not affect an independent review.

Dr Carl Herbert, president of the facility, said doctors called patients on Saturday to inform them of the failure. 'Our goal is to provide all the patients we see with some kind of a family.

In a class action lawsuit, they allege the hospital failed "to maintain, inspect, monitor, and/or test their liquid nitrogen storage tanks".

"We had two embryos that had been stored at UH Ahuja Medical Center, and those two embryos we were told yesterday [Saturday] that they were not deemed viable", Amber Ash said.

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 medical community calls it tissue, I like to think of it as my children".

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The clinic declined to specify the number of eggs and embryos affected but said that "several thousand" were in the waist-high tank.

According to Herbert, once the failure was discovered, the lab director immediately had a spare storage tank brought into the lab and filled with liquid nitrogen, so that the eggs and embryos could be transferred.

"This was a awful incident", Pacific Fertility Center President Carl Herbert, MD, told The Post.

Tipton said he was unaware of similar malfunctions that damaged thousands of eggs and embryos.

UH said the malfunction that happened earlier this month potentially impacted the viability of more than 2,000 embryos and eggs.

According to the clinic's website, its fees for egg freezing are $8,345 for the initial cycle and $6,995 for each subsequent round.

"We are so very sorry, we want to do all that we can to support them and we will stand by to answer questions and address them, understanding that we may not have all of those answers right now", DePompei said. Hospital officials say about 700 patients are affected. Some dated to the 1980s.

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