The fertility clinic outside Cleveland that announced a failure of its freezer system admitted that their initial assessment of the damage may be far worse than previously thought, and that human error may be behind the incident.
Close to 1,000 patients have been informed that 4,000 eggs and embryos that were being kept in the facility were destroyed on March 3, CBS News reports. University Hospitals issued a new letter to patients, saying that “the remote alarm system on the tank, designated to alert a UH employee to changes like temperature swings, was off.” It said,
We don’t know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off, but it appears to have been off for a period of time. We are still seeking those answers.
Hospital authorities claim that they still don’t know who turned the remote alarm off or how it long it had been disabled. They added that they were also aware that the tank in question needed preventive maintenance. Many of the eggs and embryos in that particular tank had been there since the 1980s.
James Liu, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals, said, “Right now we do not know whether it’s mechanical or human or [a] combination.” The hospital’s investigation is still ongoing.
Liu says he doesn’t think the alarm was disengaged on purpose. “Because it is a computer, we think it’s unlikely that there was any kind of external force that was working to hack the computer or anything like that. We think it’s unlikely,” Liu said.
The hospital announced that it is offering free IVF cycles for families involved, and is providing counseling, as well. There has been no evidence that this failure was related to the one that took place on the same day at a fertility clinic in San Francisco.