San Francisco, Cleveland fertility clinics experience rare malfunction on same day

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Lawyers for Amber and Elliott Ash, of the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, and an unidentified Pennsylvania couple have sued University Hospitals after its fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland discovered a storage tank malfunction March 4 and said last week that as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged.

Dr Carl Herbert, president of the facility, said doctors called patients on Saturday to inform them of the failure.

"There was a gradient between the top of the cryo tank and the bottom and the bottom stayed at the proper levels so we are now looking at what specimens existed in that gradient, but obviously our concern is that there is potentially compromised embryos and our fear is a significant number of embryos and eggs have been compromised", Dr. Liu said. Women freeze eggs in order to postpone pregnancy until a later date or to have a supply for in vitro fertilization attempts. Dr. Kevin Doody is lab director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

The University Hospital Fertility Center in Cleveland has a long-term storage tank containing liquid nitrogen that suffered equipment failure. According to ABC News, the tank at Pacific Fertility Center in California had a temperature fluctuation with the inventory of egg and embryo assets.

"This was a awful incident", Herbert told the Post, "but I was reassured that he did everything anybody could ever want to do".

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"What is most disturbing to me is that everyone I talked to has been informed by UH that their embryos are not viable, they've been destroyed, different from what has been out there publicly which has been that they've been compromised, we don't know".

The couple says their embryos are now no longer viable. They amounted to an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the total stored at the facility, according to Pacific Fertility Clinic spokesperson Alden Romney. The clinic also has brought in a multidiscplinary team to investigate the tank itself and "every aspect that involves cryopreservation", he said. While the staff spent days sorting through records to verify which patients' tissue was inside, he said they do not yet know how many of them were still planning to use it. They must be completely thawed to determine viability, but then can not be refrozen.

"Right now, our patients come first", UH said in the statement.

In the earlier incident Ohio, UH officials notified about 700 patients that their frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged. Hospital officials say the lawsuits will not affect an ongoing investigation into what happened.

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