Live

Watch CBSN Live

Alarm system was off when embryo tank failed, Ohio fertility clinic says

Ohio fertility clinic failure

An alarm system was turned off on a storage tank when it malfunctioned at an Ohio fertility clinic and ruined more than 4,000 eggs and embryos, double what the clinic first thought, the hospital said in a letter to patients. The clinic run by University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland does not know who shut off the alarm earlier this month or why it happened.

The alarm should have alerted staff when the storage tank's temperature began to rise on the evening of March 4 when no one was at the lab.

"We don't know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off, but it appears to have been off for a period of time. We are still seeking those answers," the letter said. "We are heartbroken to tell you that it's unlikely any are viable."

University Hospitals said about 950 patients were affected and several lawsuits have been filed against it in the past three weeks.

Fertility clinic failures put thousands of frozen embryos at risk

A message seeking comment from the hospital wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.

Couples who had stored their egg and embryos at the clinic say they're devastated because they may not be able to have their own children. Some had been trying for years to get pregnant, suffered multiple miscarriages or undergone cancer treatments that destroyed their fertility.

Two accreditation organizations and Ohio's health department are investigating the failure, which happened the same day liquid nitrogen levels for a storage tank at a San Francisco fertility clinic fell dramatically and possibly destroyed thousands of frozen eggs and embryos. The clinic sent an email to patients who were affected that reads in part: "While assisted reproductive technologies never come with guaranteed results, we are committed to exceptional patient care and to employing the highest quality practices in our laboratory."

There is no known connection between the two failures.