Freezer Malfunction Destroys Thousands of Eggs and Embryos at a National Fertility Center

Freezer Malfunction Destroys Thousands of Eggs and Embryos at a National Fertility Center

Some of the families affected had frozen eggs dating as far back as the 1980s.

By Marianne Garvey

This is the stuff of nightmares.

Couples struggling with infertility — or those who just froze eggs for future use — found out that about 2,000 eggs and embryos were likely destroyed due to a freezer malfunction at University Hospitals' Ahuja Medical Center in Ohio.

The freezers thawed and temps soared at the nationally renowned fertility clinic over the night of March 3 into March 4, according to hospital officials, and the hospital has even had to increase security due to the angry patients who were notified that their eggs and embryos were now scrambled.

The procedure to have eggs removed then freeze them, or combine them with an embryo can cost upwards of $15,000 — and often isn’t covered by insurance.

No one has answers yet as to how a large liquid nitrogen freezer at the facility was affected, and staff who monitored the freezer had gone home the previous afternoon, leaving the freezer to thaw overnight and in the morning.


Most of the patients were in the middle of IVF treatment, and had more than one egg or embryo stored, which is now gone. Sometimes, those were the only viable eggs a woman had, and was placing all her hopes for a family on what was in that freezer.

The storage tank had off-site monitoring and an alarm which would indicate any change in temperature, sadly, the alarm had been going off overnight, but no one was around to hear it. The hospital says they are currently investigating and has issued an apology to the families affected.

“We are still in the process of looking at what actually happened to the monitoring and temperature sensors. We've actually engaged an outside expert to analyze and drill down to see what actually happened,” said Dr. James Liu, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital. “There was a gradient between the top of the cryo tank and the bottom and the bottom stayed at the proper levels so we are currently looking at what specimens existed in that gradient, but obviously our concern is that there is potentially compromised embryos and our fear is a significant number of embryos and eggs have been compromised.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that some of the families affected had frozen eggs as far back as the 1980s.

“It's devastating, it's absolutely devastating,” said Patti DePompei, President of University Hospital MacDonald Women’s Hospital and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

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