Couple sues University Hospitals after losing their "only chances" in fertility clinic failure

Couple sues Ohio fertility clinic
Couple sues Ohio fertility clinic 02:45

At a fertility clinic outside Cleveland, hospital officials publicly admitted Tuesday that the number of eggs and embryos lost when the freezer system failed is double original estimates. University Hospitals said an alarm system that had been malfunctioning for weeks was shut off on March 3 and failed to notify staff when the storage tank's temperature began to rise. Now some 950 families have learned that they are the victims of what the hospital is calling a "catastrophic failure," with 4,000 eggs and embryos destroyed.

Amber and Elliott Ash had hoped their 2-year-old son Ethan would one day have a sibling. 

"We want to move on and get past this but we keep being reminded that we did lose our only chances there," Elliott said.

"I assumed they were in the safest place," Amber said.

Now the Ash family is suing University Hospitals and calling for new regulations in the fertility industry.
University Hospitals CEO Tom Zenty notified families in a Facebook video, saying, "We had a terrible situation at our fertility clinic."

He also sent a letter of apology, saying it was "unlikely" any eggs or embryos "are viable" because "the remote alarm system on the tank, designed to alert a UH employee to changes like temperature swings, was off."

"I don't understand how somebody can be so truly reckless," Amber said.

The hospital said some of the eggs and embryos had been stored there since the 1980s, and "the tank… needed preventative maintenance."

While the investigation is ongoing, human error has not been ruled out.

"We are in the process of identifying the exact sequence of when this occurred and who ordered the deactivation," said James Liu, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals. Liu said the hospital takes full responsibility.

"We are very sorry that this happened," Liu said.
But for the Ash family, it's hard to understand why the tank was not adequately monitored.

"Everybody just wants UH to be accountable and to be transparent and nobody wants to see failures like this occur elsewhere," Amber said.

University Hospitals said their fertility clinic continues to operate and is now using new storage tanks and alarm systems. The hospital is refunding the storage fees for these families and waiving future fees for seven years.