University hospitals

University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, named in honor of Monte Ahuja, Indian American board chairman of University Hospitals, his wife Usha and their family, who donated $30 million towards Vision 2010: The UH Difference. (University Hospitals photo)

Beachwood, Ohio-based University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center’s Fertility Clinic will put in place increased security after a freezer malfunctioned, affecting some embryos.

The temperature of the tissue storage bank, where eggs and embryos are housed in liquid nitrogen, unexpectedly fluctuated, the hospital system said in a March 8 news release.

The storage bank holds about 2,000 eggs and embryos from 700 patients and the hospital said it doesn’t know the viability of the tissue.

A University Hospitals spokeswoman said the security increase is because of the "emotional nature of the situation," Fox 8 Cleveland reported.

UH said it does not know if mechanical or human error caused the freezer malfunction, and the incident remains under investigation, the report added.

In the days after the freezer malfunctioned, a proposed class action lawsuit was filed March 11 on behalf of Amber and Elliott Ash, who lost two embryos stored there. The Ashes are represented by the law firm DiCello Levitt & Casey, based in Chicago and Cleveland.

It was the first of what may become many class action lawsuits filed against the Ahuja Medical Center, according to a Cleveland.com report.

On March 12, the law firm Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Carr & Kane, which has handled a number cases involving embryo loss and related issues pertaining to fertility clinics, filed suit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on behalf of a Pennsylvania couple and 700 other patients affected by University Hospital's faulty freezer, the report said.

The Pennsylvania couple named in the PRW lawsuit had tried for eight years to become parents, attorney Lydia Floyd said in the report.

The couple called the UH fertility clinic March 5 to begin the implantation procedure using their frozen embryos. Later that day, UH informed the couple that their embryos had been destroyed by the tissue storage bank temperature fluctuations over the preceding two days, the publication said.

Partner Adam Wolf said he expects multiple lawsuits to be filed in the UH case. PRW has received calls from at least 12 patients affected by a similar accident at a San Francisco fertility clinic, and looking for legal representation, Wolf said in a March 12 conference call.

These lawsuits send the message that accidents like the one at UH are unacceptable, Wolf said. There has been no discussion of a settlement with UH yet, he said, according to the report.

University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, which opened in 2011, is a community hospital focused on patient and family-centered care and the tenets of evidence-based design.

It is named in honor of Monte Ahuja, the Indian American board chairman of University Hospitals, his wife Usha and their family, who donated $30 million towards Vision 2010: The UH Difference.

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