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Lawsuits Initiated After Thousands of Eggs Were Potentially Destroyed at Two Fertility Clinics

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On Thursday, law firm Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Carr & Kane (PRW) announced it was filing a class action lawsuit for those who lost eggs and embryos at Pacific Fertilization Center in San Francisco — the second of two fertility clinics to malfunction this month. Earlier this month, cryogenic freezers at University Hospital Fertility Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio experienced technical difficulties. In both cases, levels of liquid nitrogen in the cryogenic tanks were dangerously low. Hundreds of people and thousands of eggs have been affected.

Eggs are frozen for multiple reasons, including but not limited to infertility treatments, fertility preservation before cancer treatment and fertility preservation for those who want children later in life. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, thousands of women freeze their eggs each year. But it’s an expensive process, and can cost upwards of $10,000, the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago states.

Chief advocacy, policy and development officer for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Sean Tipton told The Mighty that these freezer failures “are thought to be the first large-scale ones.”

After the incident, patients of UH Fertility Clinic received a letter from Patty DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and the UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital, apologizing for the malfunction. Those affected in San Francisco received calls and emails.

Lynette Beagle, who lost eight eggs at UH Fertility Clinic, told The Mighty, the letter she received was informal and did not provide those affected with any information about their specific eggs. “I received a letter in the mail and it said ‘Dear Community Member,’” she said, adding:

I want to know what happened, why there weren’t any sound alarms, and why they don’t separate the eggs and embryos. If I had four eggs in one freezer and four in the other, maybe some would have survived. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

The Mighty obtained a copy of the UH Fertility Clinic letter and can confirm the letter included no specifics.

DePompei also released a video statement concerning the Cleveland UH Fertility Clinic via Facebook, which was shared before the clinic’s letters went out.

“I’m angry that this was made public prior to all those affected receiving letters,” Amber Ash, who lost eggs at the clinic commented on Facebook. “While I expect financial compensation, I can’t begin to tell you how sick I feel. There is so much grief and a lack of control in the world of infertility and this compounds it.”

In response to these events, Barbara Collura, president and chief executive of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association told The Mighty:

We will be watching closely what information is provided to the impacted patients and the public, and we will make a determination at that time whether we believe what has been provided is helpful to the entire community. If it is not, we will publicly state that and do what we can to hold the clinics accountable.

PRW has handled similar cases of embryo and egg destruction and has set up a website for those affected by the malfunction at Pacific Fertility Center. A similar lawsuit has already been filed by the same firm for patients at the Ohio clinic.

Both fertility centers have brought on independent experts to help determine the cause of the freezer malfunctions.

Originally published: March 15, 2018
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