A technical malfunction at a San Francisco fertility clinic earlier this month may have damaged hundreds of patients’ eggs and embryos, putting their chances of future in vitro fertilization at risk.
According to the Washington Post, officials at the Pacific Fertility Clinic confirmed on Sunday that on March 4, a liquid nitrogen failure caused temperature fluctuation in one of the facility’s storage tanks. The clinic’s president, Dr. Carl Herbert, told WaPo that the extent of the damage is still unclear, and though staff members thawed a few affected eggs and found them to be viable, the clinic does not know how many will be usable for future in vitro attempts, and did not check any embryos.
The clinic says several thousand eggs and embryos were in the affected tank and staffers called about 400 patients to inform them of potential damage to their eggs and embryos. Considering the emotional and financial cost of such damage—freezing eggs can cost as much as $12,000 for one round of retrieval—informing patients was no easy task. “There is just not an ability to do this unemotionally. Anger is a big part of the phone call,” Herbert said. “Our goal is to provide all the patients we see with some kind of a family. . .We need to think, if this tissue doesn’t work, what are the next steps and have you not feel defeated.”
Coincidentally, on the very same day as the malfunction at the Pacific Fertility Clinic, a fertility clinic in Cleveland, Ohio experienced a similar refrigeration failure, this one also putting thousands of eggs and embryos at risk. The affected clinic at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center reported the incident to the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday, noting that as many as 700 patients may have been affected. Patti DePompei, President of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital, posted a video to Facebook professing the hospital was “incredibly sorry” about the incident and planned to investigate it. A local FOX affiliate reports that a class action lawsuit will be filed against the hospital.