Imagining the Worst: Cryopreservation Storage Failure

By Leslie Schreiber

What happens when a fertility center loses your eggs or embryos because of a storage unit failure?

Over the past week, there have been two incidents at separate U.S. fertility centers in which the labs’ storage units have failed. In Cleveland, the University Hospitals Fertility Center’s liquid nitrogen tank failed, resulting in the loss of 2,000 eggs and embryos.[1] Several days later, the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco reported that “a piece of equipment in its cryostorage laboratory lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time.”[2] According to the clinic, the vast majority of eggs and embryos had not been affected by the storage failure.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine issued a statement, assuring patients that it “would work with its member clinics to help them take any steps needed to ensure such an event never happens again.”[3]

However, for the people who have eggs or embryos stored at these facilities, this news must be devastating, after all the discomfort, costs, and hope that comes with fertility treatments. It is an unfortunate reality that gamete cryopreservation does not necessarily guarantee future success for family planning.

Therefore, it is important to research the facility before engaging them to store your eggs or embryos.

Clinics should be accredited by either the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or the College of American Pathologists, which inspects clinics regularly…. [E]xperts recommend clinics be affiliated with the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology, the leading professional organization, which audits clinics and keeps success rate data.[4]

Clients should ask the facility how many embryologists it has onsite. According to the experts, there should be at least two embryologists in the lab at all times.[5]

It is also vital for patients who want to take advantage of cryopreservation facilities read the storage agreements very carefully beforehand to determine what kind of liability the lab is willing to incur.

[1] Cullinane, S., “Second U.S. Fertility Clinic Reports Egg Storage Tank Malfunction,” CNN.com (Mar. 12, 2018), available at https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/12/health/frozen-eggs-second-clinic-malfunction/index.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2018).

[2] Id.

[3] “ASRM Statement on Second Report of Storage Tank Failure,” available at http://www.asrm.org/news-and-publications/news-and-research/press-releases-and-bulletins/asrm-statement-on-second-report-of-storage-tank-failure/ (last visited Mar. 15, 2018).

[4] “What Fertility Patients Should Know About Egg Freezing,” New York Times (Mar. 13, 2018), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/health/eggs-freezing-storage-safety.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2018).

[5] Id.

2018-03-16T16:06:57+00:00