CLEVELAND - More families are suing University Hospitals after eggs and embryos they had stored at the University Hospitals Fertility Clinic were jeopardized.
About 600 families were impacted, according to the hospital. For many of them, costly and invasive In-Vitro Fertilization treatments were their last hope of having biological children.
Many are now learning their eggs and embryos are no longer viable after a temperature fluctuation in a liquid nitrogen storage tank at the University Hospitals Fertility Clinic at Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood.
The hospital reported Thursday that about 2,000 eggs and embryos that had been frozen in the tank may not be viable after the unexpected change in temperature. A spokesperson for University Hospitals said Monday that the health system is still investigating if human error or an equipment malfunction was to blame.
Kate and Jeremy Plants said they began treatments after Kate was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 and had five embryos stored in the compromised tank.
"We would love to have our own biological child, so when we found out that that decision was made for us, and they're destroyed, you're grieving the loss of your own child essentially because your hopes and dreams are put into that embryo," Kate Plants said. "We feel like we're grieving again the fact that we can't have kids."
Plants is being represented by attorney Tom Merriman with Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC. Merriman said he has been contacted by dozens of devastated families and is among the attorneys filing lawsuits against the hospital.
"We need to get to the bottom of what happened," Merriman said. "Everyone who has talked to their doctor has been told 'your embryos are not viable.' It appears this is far more catastrophic than what was originally reported."
The law firm Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Carr & Kane announced Monday that it filed a class action lawsuit against University Hospitals in Cuyahoga County in the name of a Pennsylvania couple who called the fertility clinic last week to begin the implantation process and learned their embryos had been destroyed.
University Hospitals said it is investigating the incident.
"We understand why some people might feel compelled to take this step," a hospital spokesperson said in a statement responding to the lawsuits. "Any lawsuits being filed will have no bearing on the independent review being conducted or our determination to help patients who have suffered this loss."
Plants said the only contact she has had from the hospital was via a letter she received Saturday.
"That was such a big loss for us, and I felt like that was very impersonal," she said.
"I thought, well if they're just going to go public and apologize, that's not good enough."
She said the family is now pursuing fostering and adoption, and she wants the hospital held accountable.
"The fact that it happened in the first place is mind-boggling to me," Plants said. "I think something that sensitive and that precious, they should have had fail safes and fail safes and fail safes."