Hundreds of patients and customers of University Hospital’s Ahuja Medical Center received some shocking letters this week as they were informed of a malfunction that may have caused their deposited eggs and embryos to be completely unviable. One of the fertility center’s long-term liquid nitrogen storage tanks reportedly malfunctioned on Saturday, with hospital staff only noticing the problem a day later. The temperature within the tanks that housed the eggs and embryos reportedly fluctuated and went well above the temperatures required to sustain the samples’ viability.
A video was uploaded on Facebook with Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and MacDonald Women’s Hospital, sincerely apologizing to affected patients. DePompei revealed that they were still investigating the malfunction and that they are currently working with all of the patients affected. It is apparently not yet clear whether the problem was caused by human error or a mechanical malfunction. According to a report from FOX 8 Cleveland, over 700 patients may have been affected. The long-term storage tanks housed eggs and embryos dating as far back as the 80s.
Several patients have already expressed their dismay over the incident, including cancer survivor Elliot Ash. As reported by CBS, Elliot and his wife Amber decided to use the fertility clinic when Elliot was diagnosed with cancer. The couple had previously gone through the in vitro fertilization process (IVF), which resulted in the birth of their son in 2015. The couple had planned to use one of the embryos they had stored to give birth to another child.
The fertility center’s services do not come cheap as IVF procedures can cost up to $12,000 for patients without insurance. It is not yet clear if the hospital will be compensating the patients affected by the malfunction. All of the affected samples have reportedly already been transferred to another storage tank, but the hospital still needs to thaw them to determine the extent of the damage. Several specimens scheduled for IVF procedures this week were reportedly already determined to be nonviable for use.
University Hospitals is encouraging all of its patients to call their hotline or get in touch with their physicians to get more information. Those that have not received calls or letters can contact the hospital’s hotline at 216-286-9740.