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Family files lawsuit over lost embryos at OH hospital

12 March 2018

During a routine check, the clinic's laboratory director discovered that the level of liquid nitrogen in one of the steel storage tanks had fallen too low, which could cause damage to the tissue.

It occurred some time after staff left the previous afternoon, according to Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and MacDonald Women's Hospital.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against University Hospitals, just days after it was revealed a freezer malfunction might have damaged about 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos.

A liquid nitrogen tank at the clinic located outside Cleveland, where more than 2,000 frozen embryos and eggs are stored, unexpectedly heated up. She says temperatures in one of the two liquid nitrogen tanks storing specimens at University Hospitals' fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland rose above acceptable limits overnight Saturday for unknown reasons. "The medical community calls it tissue. Anger is a big part of the phone call", Herbert said of his discussions with patients.

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The eggs and embryos have been moved to a different cryotank in the meantime, but their viability remains questionable. Embryos - fertilized eggs - are stored individually.

The clinic has reported the incident to the College of American Pathologists, which regulates labs, and the overseers of California's tissue banks, Herbert said. Pacific Fertility said in a statement that "the vast majority of the eggs and embryos in the lab were unaffected, and the facility is operating securely". "This was a awful incident", Herbert said, "but I was reassured that.he did everything anybody could ever want to do".

The Post reported that the San Francisco clinic notified about 400 patients who had all of their eggs or embryos stored in the affected storage tank and 100 who had some stored in the tank.

"Our clients are absolutely devastated, as I'm sure countless families across OH are, in the wake of this catastrophic failure by University Hospitals", said Mark DiCello of DiCello Levitt & Casey, attorney for the plaintiffs. Herbert told ABC News that in his 35 years of Cryopreservation it is an "an unusual event" where two clinics and two liquid nitrogen storage tanks where the tissues are stored "failed".

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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.

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.

Herbert is a longtime physician and researcher in assisted reproductive technology.

The lawsuit is a response to the Center's disaster that possibly damaged more than 2,000 eggs and embryos. Some dated to the 1980s. Hospital officials say the lawsuits will not affect an ongoing investigation into what happened.

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Author Information: Amy Goldstein is The Washington Post's national health-care policy writer.

Family files lawsuit over lost embryos at OH hospital