A lawsuit filed on behalf of Amber and Elliot Ash claims that University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH, lost the couple’s embryos, along with thousands of others, after a refrigerator malfunction.
“In what can only be characterized as gross negligence and an utter breach of trust, decency, and responsible stewardship, Defendants destroyed the hopes, dreams, and futures of hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective Ohio parents and families,” the lawsuit said.
Amber described the incident as heartbreaking. “The medical community calls it tissue, I like to think of it as my children. My frozen children,” she said.
Elliot was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2003, so the couple decided to bank his sperm. They have stored their embryos in the hospital since 2014 and have paid approximately $400 a year for the service. The couple delivered their now 2-year-old son, Ethan, through vitro fertilization at the hospital. They had hopes of giving him a sibling.
“We had gone through in vitro fertilization,” Amber said. “We were fortunate to have one son that we conceived through IVF, but we’ve been told that the two remaining embryos did not survive.”
“You put so much faith into the physicians and the medical team, and like I said, to have this taken away — your hopes and dreams destroyed. It’s a tremendous loss,” Amber said.
The couple’s lawyer Robert DiCello is currently talking to others about including them in this class-action lawsuit.
“I just urge everyone, before you judge what they’ve gone through, or what they’re going through, or what their motives for doing it, ask yourselves, ‘What would it be like if I had my family’s treasure lost by a hospital that just didn’t care enough to check on it?’” he said.
The malfunction occurred overnight on Saturday, but the hospital has yet to clarify whether it was a mechanical or human error. About 2,000 eggs and embryos were lost. The Ash family said the goal of the lawsuit is to ensure another family doesn’t have to suffer the loss they did.
The hospital’s fertility clinic provides embryo cryopreservation, which freezes excess embryos for implantation in the future, and egg freezing, which lets patients freeze their eggs for later use. These services are aimed for women who want to have children later and those who worry about losing their fertility because of cancer treatments.