Earlier this month, two fertility clinics reported that they’d suffered malfunctions that could potentially damage hundreds of patients’ stored eggs and embryos. San Francisco’s Pacific Fertility Clinic acknowledged that several eggs and embryos had been affected (they declined to say exactly how many). In an unrelated incident that occurred a few days prior, on March 3, University Hospitals just outside Cleveland, Ohio notified around 700 patients that the eggs and embryos (some 2,100 in total) they’d stored with the facility were potentially damaged.
Now, more than three weeks later, the Ohio hospital is estimating the number of destroyed embryos to be closer to about 4,000. NBC reported that on Tuesday 1,000 patients received letters from University Hospitals apologizing for the damage done to their stored eggs and embryos.
According to the letter, at the time at which its freezer system malfunctioned “the remote alarm system on the tank, designed to alert a UH employee to changes like temperature swings, was off.”
University Hospitals is as of yet unsure whether the alarm was disabled due to human error, or what, but James Liu, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals told CBS that he didn’t think it was done intentionally. “Right now,” said Liu, “we do not know whether it’s mechanical, or human, or [a] combination.”