Fertility Clinic Malfunction Risks The Viability Of More Than 2000 Eggs And Embryos

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A malfunction over the weekend caused temperatures to rise at a Clevelant area fertility clinic. The temperature fluctuation may have compromised the viability of at least 2,100 frozen eggs and embryos.  ( Lluis Gene | Getty Images )

A temperature malfunction at a fertility clinic in the Cleveland area may have compromised the viability of more than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos.

Many people who have trouble conceiving naturally rely on fertility clinics to help them out. The frozen eggs and embryos play a crucial part in the whole process, but they have to be stored in certain conditions and at certain temperatures to remain viable.

Temperature Malfunction Risks Eggs And Embryos's Viability

Over the weekend, a malfunction caused the temperature to rise in a storage bank at the University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. The temperature fluctuation may have compromised the viability of at least 2,100 frozen eggs and embryos and may have affected hundreds of families.

The fertility clinic reached out to roughly 700 patients to inform them that their frozen eggs and embryos may have been compromised. Not all samples were recent, however, as some have been frozen since the 1980s.

In a statement on Thursday, University Hospitals said that it doesn't know yet what caused the temperature to rise, but it's conducting an investigation into the matter. For now, it remains unclear whether the issue stems from a mechanical malfunction or a human error.

The clinic says that it doesn't know yet whether or not the viability of the eggs and embryos stored in liquid nitrogen at the affected bank has been compromised. Independent experts will assess the situation and help University Hospitals understand what happened and how it can handle the situation.

"We are incredibly sorry this happened. We are committed to getting answers and working with patients individually to address their concerns," says the clinic. "We have already initiated contact with all of our patients to inform them and respond to their questions, and set up a designated call center to arrange personal meetings or calls with their physicians."

University Clinic adds that it plans on doing the right thing by its patients and their families, but doesn't go into detail as to what that would entail.

Potential Damages Could Be Huge

If the malfunction compromised the viability of more than 2,000 eggs, the impact would be devastating. Patients have made considerable investments both financially and emotionally, and this could take a heavy toll.

The costs patients face at a fertility clinic are considerable. Removing and freezing a woman's eggs, for instance, can cost more than $10,000, on top of which, patients also pay annual storage fees. For some people, the fertility treatment is their one shot at having a child of their own.

After the malfunction, the only way to determine whether the samples are still good is thawing and implanting them, the clinic told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. According to the publication, some samples thawed on Sunday are no longer viable.

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