Three Chicago-area men are considering legal action after they were informed that sperm they stored before undergoing medical treatments where sterility was a risk were destroyed by a malfunctioning storage system.
A cryogenic storage tank owned by the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation (NMFF) malfunctioned on April 21 and 22, as did the alarm system intended to alert technicians to equipment failure, the Chicago Tribune reports. When technicians discovered the problem Monday, they transferred samples to a working freezer and began testing samples, many of which were found to have an "adverse impact" and destroyed, according to a statement from the NMFF.
The foundation says it contacted hundreds of fertility patients to explain their options. Soon after, lawyers representing three anonymous patients who are 26, 33 and 48 years old filed an emergency bill of discovery against the hospital and the foundation to preserve data--and possible evidence--as the foundation contends with the aftermath, ABC Chicago reports.
One victim, a 48-year-old man with a genetic disorder, was informed of the situation when visiting the hospital with his wife to use the sperm, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Another patient, 33, stored sperm samples before undergoing chemotherapy, which he was warned could make him infertile, law firm Corboy and Demetrio told the newspaper.
“They are absolutely devastated,” attorney Matthew Jenkins, with the law firm Corboy and Demetrio, told CBS Chicago. “The samples were a one-shot deal, and they likely will not have the ability to start families in the future.”
The faculty foundation released a statement saying they "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 needs." The foundation says it is investigating the equipment malfunction.
Correction: The original version of this story suggested that the malfunctioning cryogenic tank belonged to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, when in fact it is the property of the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, a completely separate non-profit organization from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. HuffPost Chicago regrets the error.