The egg retrieval process for both in-vitro fertilization or egg freezing is invasive. It typically involves putting an ultrasound probe into the vagina to visualize the small sacs inside the ovaries that house individual eggs, then inserting a needle through the vaginal wall and into the ovary to remove one egg, repeated multiple times. Here is a medical illustration of exactly what’s going on, if you can stomach it. Patients typically go under some sort of sedation and are given intravenous painkillers.
Now, nearly 60 women are suing the Yale Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) clinic in Orange, Connecticut, after a nurse, Donna Monticone, admitted that she stole fentanyl from vials meant for patients and replaced the drug with saline. One patient said she screamed during the procedure.
Per the lawsuit: “The result was that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women underwent the most painful fertility surgeries and procedures offered at the REI Clinic with little or no analgesia.” When the Associated Press first reported on the lawsuit in November 2021, there were seven plaintiffs. (A Yale spokesperson told the AP it wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.)
One plaintiff, Laura Czar, told Elle that her sister-in-law said she wouldn’t feel a thing, and the Yale REI staff said the same thing.
I would receive an IV “cocktail” of meds to put me in a “twilight state,” which is supposed to make you feel relaxed—practically on the verge of sleeping. Only, I was very much awake. “I can feel everything you’re doing,” I said.
The pain—a horrible, gut-wrenching pain—was so intense. Picture a large needle being inserted into your vagina through your vaginal wall and into the ovaries. That’s done to pull out every egg. If you’ve got multiple, that goes in multiple times. Not to mention that you are surrounded by people with your legs wide open. You are at your most vulnerable. After the procedure was over, I thought to myself: Well, I guess that’s just the way it is?
As part of her nursing duties, Monticone inventoried and placed orders for the clinic’s supply of narcotics, including fentanyl. Starting in June 2020, she began stealing fentanyl from the vials for her own use and re-injecting saline into them. Monticone admitted that, at first, she injected herself with the drug while working at the clinic and then started taking the vials home and refilling them there. She allegedly tampered with a whopping 175 vials.
This is a much more fucked-up version of teens watering down their parents’ vodka bottles—as a nurse, she knew these vials would be used on patients undergoing painful procedures. Per a Department of Justice press release:
The investigation revealed that approximately 75 percent of the fentanyl given to patients at the Yale REI clinic from June to October 2020 was adulterated with saline. Some of the vials contained diluted fentanyl, while others contained no drug at all and contained just saline.
In pleading guilty, Monticone admitted that knew that the adulterated vials of fentanyl she replaced at the Yale REI clinic would be used in surgical procedures, and that the absence of an anesthetic during an outpatient procedure may cause serious bodily injury to the patient.
Monticone pled guilty in March 2021 to one count of tampering with a consumer product. She surrendered her nursing license and faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but was sentenced in May 2021 to four weekends in prison, three months of home confinement, and three years of supervised release.
At her sentencing hearing, Monticone said she started using drugs during a contentious divorce and custody battle over her three children. She also testified that she’d been through infertility treatment herself and knew all that it entails, which makes this whole saga even worse and more difficult to comprehend.