Three men are considering legal action against a sperm bank in the USA after
their frozen sperm samples were allegedly destroyed following a reported malfunction in the bank's storage system. Its operators have said the error could affect as many as 200
patients, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The men, who had stored their sperm at a facility owned by the Northwestern
Medical Faculty Foundation (NMFF) in Chicago, obtained a court order requiring
the disclosure of all relevant documentation including inspection records and
maintenance reports to the men's lawyers.
'Today's order ensures both the preservation of all critical components of
the system's failure as well as all documents pertaining to that failure', said
Michael Demetrio of law firm Corboy & Demetrio, who is representing the men.
The disclosure will allow lawyers to investigate details released in a press
release by the NMFF that a cryogenic storage tank used for storing sperm
samples malfunctioned on two dates in April. Additionally, the alarm system
failed to alert technicians and many samples were destroyed by the time the
breakdown was discovered on the following Monday.
The three men, who claim their sperm was among the samples destroyed, were all affected by illnesses or were undergoing medical
treatments that could leave them infertile, their lawyers said.
'This is an unforgivable event that has led these three individuals - these
three victims - to not be able to start families of their own in the future',
said Matthew Jenkins, also from Corboy & Demetrio. 'They are absolutely devastated', he added.
The NMFF said nearly 200 fertility patients were alerted of the equipment
failure. About 100 samples were tested and scheduled to be discarded, but
according to a statement, the foundation 'expressed hope that many of the samples would still be viable for IVF procedures'.
Dr Phillip Roemer, the foundation's chief medical officer, said in a
statement: 'We deeply regret that this occurred and understand how upsetting
this can be to our patients, so our primary focus has been on them and their
Many fertility patients choose to have their sperm, embryos or eggs preserved so that reproductive procedures could allow them to become parents in
the future. However, Josephine Johnston from the Hastings Center, a bioethics
research institute in Garrison, New York, said 'the fact that this kind of
malfunction could happen at a fertility clinic is a frightening piece of news
for fertility patients in general'.