Fertility clinic: Alarm was turned off on failed embryo tank

Associated Press

An alarm system turned off on a fertility clinic storage tank that had been malfunctioning for weeks led to a failure that likely ruined more than 4,000 eggs and embryos, double what the clinic first thought, it said today.

The clinic run by University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland does not know who shut off the alarm or why it happened, according to a letter sent to its patients.

The alarm should have alerted staff when the storage tank's temperature began to rise on the weekend of March 4 when no one was at the lab.

"We don't know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off, but it appears to have been off for a period of time. We are still seeking those answers," the letter said.

The failure and a second one the same day at a fertility clinic in San Francisco were the biggest such losses on record in the U.S., causing centers around the nation to review their procedures.

So far, there are no known connections between the two failures.

Couples who had stored their eggs and embryos at the clinics say they're devastated because they may not be able to have their own children. Some had been trying for years to get pregnant, suffered multiple miscarriages or undergone cancer treatments that destroyed their fertility.

Mark DiCello, a Cleveland attorney who represents some of the patients, said he believes someone at the clinic turned off the alarm because "they were having problems and they made the decision they weren't going to deal with it."

"That was a decision. That wasn't an oops," he said.

He said his clients are furious. They believe the clinic had to know soon after the failure the alarm had been turned off, but didn't say anything to the patients until now, DiCello said.

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