Women freeze eggs in order to postpone pregnancy until a later date or to have a supply for in vitro fertilization attempts.
While the extent of the damage in both scenarios is unclear, the potential damage to eggs in both incidents would be a financial and emotional blow to the fertility patients, including women storing embryos, women donating their eggs and women seeking to delay a pregnancy. In the case in OH, the facility said the only way to determine the viability of the eggs and the embryos of 700 patients is to fully thaw them. "Anger is a big part of the phone call", Herbert said of his discussions with patients.
The clinic also sent out emails to two other groups of patients about the failure - an estimated 100 patients who had tissue in the problematic tank and another tank, and then a second group whose embryos and eggs remained undamaged.
The firm has previously handled multiple cases involving eggs and embryos damaged or lost during the storage or transfer process.
The clinic says they have thoroughly reviewed their storage equipment and protocols following the incident. "The medical community calls it tissue, I like to think of it as my children".
Another, Amber Ash, wrote how sick she feels having two embryos involved in the malfunction, adding, "there is so much grief and a lack of control in the world of infertility and this compounds it".
In a class action lawsuit, they allege the hospital failed "to maintain, inspect, monitor, and/or test their liquid nitrogen storage tanks". "This was a awful incident", Herbert said, "but I was reassured that.he did everything anybody could ever want to do".
The eggs and embryos in tank #4 had been in storage for as long as 10 years, though the tank still was in active use, Herbert said. "We have already initiated contact with all of our patients to inform them and respond to their questions, and set up a designated call center to arrange personal meetings or calls with their physicians".
According to the clinic's website, its fees for egg freezing are $8,345 for the initial cycle and $6,995 for each subsequent round.
Samples would need to be unthawed to determine whether they've been damaged. If they are not, he said, "we are going to make our patients happy one way or another". In 1982, he helped to develop one of the nation's earliest reproductive technology programs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Dr. Carl Herbert is president of Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco.
Hospital officials say more than 500 patients were affected, including some that provided samples in the 1980's.
"At this point, we do not know the viability of all of the stored eggs and embryos, although we do know some have been impacted", said Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, in a videoposted Thursday on Facebook.