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3 Men Claim Northwestern Malfunction Destroyed Their Frozen Sperm

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Lawyers for three Chicago-area men were demanding answers Monday from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, after their frozen sperm was apparently ruined by a malfunctioning storage system, virtually ending their chances of having children of their own.

WBBM Newsradio's Brandis Friedman reports attorneys for the three men claimed each of their clients was undergoing treatment at Northwestern, and was advised to store semen, as their disorders or treatments would likely render them sterile.

The three men – listed as Joseph, John and James Doe – have filed an emergency motion seeking to preserve records and inspect equipment related to Northwestern's cryogenic storage system.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Brandis Friedman Reports


The hospital allegedly told the three men that their sperm samples were destroyed when a cryogenic tank malfunctioned in April. The three men were notified of the malfunction in a letter from the hospital last month.

"They are absolutely devastated," said attorney Matthew Jenkins, with the law firm Corboy & Demetrio. "The samples were a one-shot deal, and they likely will not have the ability to start families in the future."

Jenkins said the men want to get information from the hospital about the malfunction, in case they decide to file a lawsuit down the road.

James Doe, 33, was undergoing chemotherapy that would likely render him sterile, according to Jenkins. Joseph Doe, 26, and John Doe, 48, both suffered illnesses that could make them infertile.

Jenkins said all three men have forever lost their chances of fathering their own children.

"This is absolutely unforgivable," he said. "We believe they are entitled to answers."

Jenkins said John Doe and his wife were planning to use his sperm sample to try to have a baby.

"He and his wife made the decision that it was their time and they wanted to start a family," he said. "It was at that point, when they went to Northwestern, when they learned that that opportunity had been lost."

In a statement, the Northwestern Faculty Foundation said a malfunctioning cryogenic storage tank ruined several specimens, but others in the same freezer were still viable.

The foundation said doctors personally notified 200 patients of the failure.

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