Family files lawsuit over lost embryos at Cleveland hospital

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Lawyers for Amber and Elliott Ash, of the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, and an unidentified Pennsylvania couple have sued University Hospitals after its fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland discovered a storage tank malfunction March 4 and said last week that as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged. Embryos - fertilized eggs - are stored individually.

The spokesman, Tom Becker, confirmed a Washington Post report of the March 4 incident.

Dr. Kevin Doody, lab director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, told The Associated Press that the almost simultaneous storage failures are "beyond stunning" but appear to be "just a bad, bad, bad coincidence".

Officials at the University Hospital Fertility Center in Cleveland said Thursday that a similar failure may have damaged 2,000 eggs and embryos.

Dr. Carl Herbert, president and medical director at the center, told ABC News that one of the employees noticed during a routine check of the tanks that the nitrogen level in one tank was very low. Others, whose specimens were unaffected, were also notified.

CNN has attempted to contact Herbert for comment.

The lab director transferred the eggs and embryos to a spare storage tank filled with nitrogen.

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"We can't say definitively nothing like this has ever happened, but we are certainly not aware of anything", said Sean Tipton, the association's chief policy, advocacy and development officer, to the Post.

In its statement, Pacific Fertility said an independent investigation is in progress and apologized for the incident. In addition, we have completed a physical inspection of all of the lab equipment and have also thoroughly reviewed all cryo-preservation protocols with staff.

"We are incredibly sorry this happened", the hospital said in a statement.

An Ohio couple is suing University Hospitals' Fertility Center in Cleveland after learning their embryos have been damaged because of a storage tank malfunction. According to The Post, the process of removing and freezing a woman's eggs can cost more than $10,000, plus yearly storage fees.

The couple says their embryos are now no longer viable.

According to Herbert, the extent to which the chemical failure damaged the eggs and embryos remains unclear. With two occurring nearly simultaneously, he said, further investigation is necessary.

"We are so very sorry this happened and we want to do all that we can to support our patients and families through this very hard time", Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and MacDonald Women's Hospital, said in a video posted on Facebook.