Fertility clinic failure affects twice as many patients as initially reported


University Hospitals in Cleveland reported an estimated 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos – double what was initially reported – were damaged earlier this month when the temperature in one of its storage tanks rose to an unsafe level.

In a letter sent to almost 1,000 patients, the University Hospitals Fertility Center is blaming human error for the damage to the frozen eggs and embryos, making it "unlikely any are viable."

The letter states the remote alarm on the cryo storage tank, which should have alerted employees to temperature fluctuations, was shut off. The clinic does not know who disabled the alarm, but it does know the alarm was switched off the weekend of March 3.

In a video posted to the hospital's Facebook page on Tuesday, University Hospitals CEO Tom Zenty said his "thoughts and heart immediately went out to our patients."

"This was overwhelming news for them – the women and men who counted on us, those who asked us to help them with their families and for everyone who is part of the UH family," Zenty said.

The letter also stated the center had been having issues with the tank involved in the weeks leading up to the incident. The tank needed "preventative maintenance" and the hospital had difficulty with its automatic liquid nitrogen fill.

"These failures should not have happened, we take responsibility for them and we are so sorry that our failures caused such a devastating loss for you," the letter stated.

Zenty said the hospital is refunding storage fees paid to date to those affected by the malfunction and offering "medical and emotional support tailored to their individual needs."

"I can't say it more plainly, we failed our fertility clinic patients. We are sorry. I am sorry," Zenty said. "And we are going to do everything we can to regain our patients' trust."

Following the news, at least 18 sets of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits, claiming negligence and breach of contract.

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