CLEVELAND -- Nationally-known women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred is now representing three women in their cases against University Hospitals Fertility Clinic. Allred is known for taking on high-profile and controversial cases.
The women, Rachel Mehl, Sarah Deer and Danelle Yerkey, all live in Pittsburgh and are cancer survivors. They each decided to put chemotherapy to treat breast cancer on hold in order to harvest eggs for use in the future. Chemo treatments often make women infertile.
They are among the 950 patients whose eggs and embryos were destroyed when the fertility clinic’s storage tanks malfunctioned and left 4,000 eggs and embryos unviable.
“My hopes and dreams have been shattered. I have no idea how I will go on ... everything has been stolen from me and my spirit is crushed,” said Danelle Yerkey.
“Making the choice to have my eggs frozen felt empowering. It offered a light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” said Rachel Mehl, a single woman who said she always wanted to be a mother.
“Things may be terrible now I thought, but at least one day I’ll still be able to have the family I’ve always dreamed of, but now that light has been extinguished,” Mehl continued.
“I have lost faith in University Hospitals ability to care for me and any others whose stories and grief I have heard. I have lost my future comprised of 29 precious eggs, I have lost everything,” said Sarah Deer.
The women shared their personal stories of dreaming of having families and making the difficult decision to risk their lives in order to harvest eggs.
“I am a woman wounded, robbed by cancer of my health and the body that I once knew, and robbed by University Hospitals of my future,” said Deer.
Allred said she and the three women are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and reasonable legal fees. The lawsuits allege negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and breach of contract among other claims.
Allred also said she wants to empower the women to push for change. She says there needs to be more regulation on fertility clinics and additional safeguards put into place to protect frozen eggs and embryos.
“They are going to take that last ounce of strength and courage and they are going to use it to win change and it’s not just about themselves, it’s about others as well,” said Allred.
Mehl said she will never forget the children she had hoped her eggs would have become.
“In their honor I will do all that I can to ensure no one else has to endure this pain that the carelessness of University Hospitals has caused,” Mehl said.