As lawsuits pile in from distraught patients, Michigan-based provider Custom Biogenic Systems (file image) is hitting back at University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland, which blamed the tanks for the blunder
The supplier of the disgraced Ohio fertility clinic’s storage tank says its equipment didn’t malfunction or cause the loss of more than 4,000 eggs and embryos.
As lawsuits pile in from distraught patients, Michigan-based provider Custom Biogenic Systems is hitting back at University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland, which blamed the tanks for the blunder.
Both the hospital and the manufacturer agree on the root cause – an alarm system had been turned off when the storage tank’s temperature began to rise – but they disagree on how the alarm was deactivated.
The hospital group says the tanks were malfunctioning for weeks, passively pushing the blame on the machine.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Michigan-based tank manufacturer said an initial investigation found human error is to blame for the failure in March.
A statement from Custom Biogenic Systems says it gave the clinic instructions how to deal with preventative maintenance at the time, insisting the company had nothing to do with the remote alarm system that had been turned off.
University Hospitals has ruled out inappropriate access to the tank area, and did not identify anyone as complicit. However, investigations into the malfunction suggest a person was actively involved in affecting the tank.
Around 1,000 families have received letters from the hospital informing them that they too lost their eggs.
At first, it started with 600, but that number was bumped up three weeks later when it emerged 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos – not 2,000 – were damaged.
Now patients, some of whom had their eggs stored for years if not decades, are seeking millions of dollars in damages.
In a bizarre turn of events that officials are calling a tragic coincidence, the same issue occurred at San Francisco’s Pacific Fertility Center in the same week, damaging 400 embryos.
At least two families have already come forward with lawsuits against UH – Amber and Elliott Ash, of the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, and an unidentified couple from Pennsylvania.
Lawyers for the couples who went to the Ohio clinic are seeking class action status, which would require approval from a judge.
The Ashes said they stored two embryos at a University Hospitals fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland after Elliott’s cancer diagnosis in 2003. They said they were told over the weekend that their embryos are no longer viable.
‘It’s heartbreaking, just heartbreaking,’ Amber Ash told WEWS-TV. ‘The medical community calls it tissue. I like to think of it as my children.’
The couple has a two-year-old son conceived through in-vitro fertilization and hoped to bring him a genetic sibling.
‘With this lawsuit, we will get answers and stop this from happening again,’ said Mark DiCello, an attorney for the Ashes.
The Pennsylvania couple was beginning to set up a time last week for transferring a frozen embryo to the woman’s womb when they later were told something went wrong, attorneys said.