It’s been just over one year since the news broke about two unrelated equipment failures at fertility clinics in Cleveland, OH and San Francisco, CA. Tragically, those storage tank malfunctions resulted in the loss of thousands of frozen eggs and embryos. For some women, that meant the loss of any hope of ever having biological children. Several affected individuals and families have filed lawsuits against the fertility clinics and the manufacturers of the storage tanks, seeking to hold them accountable for their devastating losses.
A recent NBC News article detailed journalists’ efforts to learn which government agency or organization is ultimately responsible for this type of disaster. What they learned, unfortunately, is that while fertility clinics are themselves regulated by several different governing bodies, there are flaws and loopholes in the regulation of the storage tanks fertility centers use to maintain frozen eggs, sperm, and embryos. Oversight of the fertility industry is made up of a hodgepodge of agencies, including several under the Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA plays a major oversight role. However, neither the FDA nor any other agency is responsible for regulating the freezer tanks used by fertility clinics. In fact, the NBC report revealed that similar storage tank malfunctions occurred in the UK in 2003 and in Florida in 2005, but there were no subsequent warnings to other fertility clinics from the FDA.
While there are no looming regulatory changes on the horizon, there is hope that clinics themselves are acting to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Fertility clinics across the country introduced new security and safety protocols after last year’s disaster, in an attempt to reassure patients. In some cases, those measures include adding extra redundancies with backup storage tanks, improving monitoring systems, and better inspection processes.
If you are considering storing your eggs or frozen embryos with a fertility clinic, it’s important to do your homework. We can help you identify things to look for and questions to ask as you evaluate your options. Contact us today to learn more!