Fertility-clinic breakdowns baffle experts, upset couples

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 5:34 PM
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 5:33 PM

            This undated photo shows Amber and Elliott Ash holding son, Ethan. The Ash's have filed a class action lawsuit against University Hospitals in Cleveland after its fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland discovered a storage tank malfunction March 4 and said last week that as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged. (Ash family photo via AP)
This undated photo shows Amber and Elliott Ash holding son, Ethan. The Ash's have filed a class action lawsuit against University Hospitals in Cleveland after its fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland discovered a storage tank malfunction March 4 and said last week that as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged. (Ash family photo via AP)

Simultaneous refrigeration failures at two fertility clinics in San Francisco and suburban Cleveland have damaged or destroyed potentially thousands of frozen eggs and embryos in the biggest such loss on record in the U.S. The malfunctions have left parents-to-be heartbroken and baffled experts.

Here are some questions and answers about the two cases.



In Ohio, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center estimates 2,000 eggs and embryos may have been damaged or destroyed when an unexplained storage tank malfunction caused temperatures to rise on March 4. The medical center apologized.

On the same day in San Francisco, an embryologist at the Pacific Fertility Clinic noticed the liquid nitrogen level in one tank was very low during a routine check, clinic president Dr. Carl Herbert told ABC. He said the tank was immediately replenished and the embryos were later transferred to a new tank.

There's no known connection between the two episodes, said Dr. Kevin Doody, lab director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. He said such breakdowns are extremely rare, and two at once is "beyond stunning."

"It's two black swan events happening in the same day. One of them causes the beehive to buzz. Two? We're all in shock," Doody said.

Officials have yet to say exactly what went wrong.

Barbara Collura, president of the patient advocacy group RESOLVE, called for "a very open, transparent investigation where the results are clear and public for all of us."

"We all need to know what has happened," she said.



Scientists can easily tell by looking through a microscope whether an egg or embryo survived a thaw, said David Ball, another past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

If doctors were to implant a damaged embryo, it might not lead to a pregnancy, but if it did, it would not raise the danger of birth defects in the child, Ball said.



The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said it plans to review the incidents with the clinics and their equipment suppliers this week. The group will then make recommendations to its members.

"In the meantime, infertility clinics around the country have been double- and triple-checking their own procedures and equipment to ensure everything is working properly," the group said in a statement.

Accrediting bodies such as the College of American Pathology may also conduct reviews, and the clinics themselves will investigate or hire outside experts to do so, Doody said.

But government review is unlikely because there is minimal federal oversight of fertility clinics. The politics surrounding abortion have made federal regulation too tricky, said George Annas, a medical ethicist at the Boston University School of Public Health.

"We've never been able to separate the embryo debate from the abortion debate in the United States," Annas said.



At least two lawsuits have been filed against the Cleveland-area hospital by couples who were trying to conceive.

The patients will have to prove negligence, Annas said. "Nobody's going to be charging these clinics with murder or manslaughter," he said.

Determining any damages owed to the patients could involve looking at the cost of repeating a fertility treatment, which can run up to $15,000, he said, "unless it's the last embryo you could make because one partner is dead."

"It's hard to think it's worth more than the cost of making more embryos, unless you believe these are babies," he said. "Then it's hard to put a monetary value on it because it's so high."

Trending - Most Read Stories

Beyonce, Jay-Z’s On The Run II tour adds more dates

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 9:57 AM

Jay-Z and Beyonce Through The Years

After numerous sell out shows, Beyonce and Jay-Z have added nine dates to their “On the Run II” stadium tour.

>> Read more trending news 

Variety reported that shows have been added in Amsterdam (June 20), Washington, D.C. (July 27), East Rutherford, New Jersey (Aug. 3), Chicago (Aug. 11), Columbus, Ohio (Aug. 16), Columbia, South Carolina (Aug. 21), Atlanta (Aug. 26) and Los Angeles (Sept. 23). 

Related: Beyonce, Jay-Z announce ‘On the Run 2’ tour

The tour will close with a new date in a new city -- Seattle on Oct. 4.  

Presales for additonal dates begin March 21 at 10 a.m. local time. 

The additional North American dates, as well as previously announced tour dates, are below. More information is at Tidal.com

July 25 - Cleveland, FirstEnergy Stadium

July 27 - Washington, D.C., FedEx Field

July 28 - Washington, D.C., FedEx Field 

July 30 - Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field 

Aug. 2 - East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium 

Aug. 3 - East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium 

Aug. 5 - Boston, Gillette Stadium 

Aug. 8 - Minneapolis, US Bank Stadium 

Aug. 10 - Chicago, Soldier Field 

Aug. 11 - Chicago, Soldier Field 

Aug. 13 - Detroit, Ford Field

Aug. 16 - Columbus, Ohio

Aug. 18 - Buffalo, New York, New Era Field 

Aug. 21 - Columbia, South Carolina

Aug. 23 - Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt Stadium 

Aug. 25 - Atlanta, Mercedes Benz Stadium 

Aug. 26 - Atlanta, Mercedes Benz Stadium 

Aug. 29 - Orlando, Florida, Camping World Stadium 

Aug. 31 - Miami, Hard Rock Stadium 

Sept. 11 - Arlington, Texas, AT&T Stadium

Sept. 13 - New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome 

Sept. 15 - Houston, NRG Stadium 

Sept. 19 - Phoenix, Arizona, University of Phoenix Stadium 

Sept. 22 - Los Angeles, Rose Bowl

Sept. 26 - Los Angeles, Rose Bowl

Sept. 27 - San Diego, SDCCU Stadium 

Sept. 29 - Santa Clara, California, Levi’s Stadium 

Oct. 2 - Vancouver, BC Place

Trending - Most Read Stories

Keyless ignitions may be contributing to deaths across the United States

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

Constance Petot didn't think twice about the push button starter on her car until it almost killed her and her toddler last Valentine's Day.

>> Read more trending news

"He just went completely limp in my arms. It's the most terrifying moment in my entire life," said Petot.

The busy mom was ending her work day with a conference call as she was pulling into the garage of her parents' Florida home, where she was staying.

"As I came in I wanted the garage door to be closed when the conference call started so I went ahead and pushed the button to close the door," Petot said. "And I think in my head I just told myself I had pushed this button instead of that button."

The mistake sent carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, flooding through their home as she got 13-month-old Parker ready for bed.

The car was still on after Petot left the garage.

"My son woke up around 12:30 a.m. and was screaming," Petot recalls.

She got out of bed to pick him up.

Petot thinks her son, Parker, may have had a headache because she now knows the level of carbon monoxide at the time was high enough to have killed them within about 20 minutes.

"Once I got dizzy, I knew I needed to get out of there," Petot said. "And walked down the stairs, opened the garage door and saw that the taillight was on."

A WSB-TV investigation has tracked more than two dozen injuries and deaths around the country connected to cars with keyless ignitions being left on, with families left wondering how this could happen.

Cars with keyless ignition have no key and are designed to start with the push of a button. But it is also easier to forget to turn off the car.

The family of Bill Thomason and Eugenia (Woo) Thomason say the couple likely never realized their mistake. Their Toyota Avalon ran inside their closed garage for 32 hours as they slept.

"We know that they went to bed that night and didn't wake up the next morning," said Will Thomason, who now lives in Atlanta.

His brother Dave Thomason also lives in the metro area, and they both rushed to Greenville, South Carolina, to get to their parents, but it was too late.

"By the time they were found they were essentially brain dead," said Will Thomason. "You can't prepare for something like this."

The sons say the active retirees had just renewed their wedding vows after 50 years and adored their five grandchildren, who they won't get to see grow up.

"Oh, it's been just absolutely terrible," said Dave Thomason. "We all know that people can get killed in car accidents due to different things, but a car sitting alone, basically doing nothing but running?"

The brothers said their pain is worsened by the number of times they've now heard the same story, with reported deaths and injuries connected to running cars around the country.

The Thomason family has filed a lawsuit against Toyota, which has already settled with several of the other families.

"Hell yeah, that makes me angry. I mean, we've lost our parents," said Will Thomason.

"Nobody is in the car, it's been running for however long. The car should have an automatic cutoff. I mean, to me that's a very easy fix," said Dave Thomason.

Records show since 2011 the federal government has been studying the need for an external alert to be placed on cars that have button ignitions, but has yet to require car companies to do anything to include an external alert.

"There's probably 25 other things that car makers do ... for safety. Well, this is a life and death safety thing and it seems to me that this is an easy thing for them to address, and they aren't addressing it," Will Thomason said.

WSB-TV tested more than a dozen of the most popular cars to see what happens when you leave them running and walk away with the key fob.

Most of the cars had a dashboard display that notes that the key fob has left the vehicle. Some even emit a low interior sound, similar to the one that reminds drivers to fasten their seat belts. 

However, if a driver has left the vehicle, he or she wouldn't see that display or hear that warning. Very few of the cars made an exterior noise.

The loudest warning came from the Chevy Impala, which utilizes the car's horn.

Petot didn't hear the three low beeps her car made and she's lived with the guilt ever since.

"I absolutely take responsibility for what happened," she said. "And I think that it could happen to anybody."

But she said the price for being distracted or forgetful should not be death.

"We were incredibly lucky. We absolutely wouldn't be here," Petot said while watching Parker play in their new Marietta home. "He is definitely my little hero Valentine."

Petot said the day they moved in to their new home she purchased carbon monoxide detectors for each of the rooms.

Trending - Most Read Stories

'Serial bomber' suspected in Austin explosions, police say

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:12 PM
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 4:12 PM

What You Need to Know: Austin Package Explosions

Police in Austin continue to investigate a series of explosions that have claimed two lives and left at least four other people injured.

Here is the latest information:

>> READ MORE: Photos: Austin police investigate explosionsFor investigators, a race to decode hidden message in Austin bombingsMap shows location of 4 Austin bombsAustin explosions: 2 men hurt in fourth blast this month | Officials increase reward to $115,000 for information on Austin bombingsMan held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect, police sayAustin package explosions: 3 blasts appear connected, claim 2 lives, police sayThe Roots' SXSW show canceled after bomb threat; man arrestedAustin package bombings: Friends remember victims Draylen Mason, Anthony HouseMORE

Trending - Most Read Stories

YARR! Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean reopens with new twist

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 10:34 AM

Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.(Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk)

Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean reopened Monday at the Magic Kingdom park, with a new twist to a red-headed figure.

Guests might remember a key part of the ride where a red-headed woman was on the auction block.

>> Read more trending news 

Now, the pirate auctioneer oversees a sale of the townspeople’s most prized possessions and goods, and not the women. Some of the women have also been swapped out with men from the plundered town.

 The well-known red-headed figure has “switched sides” and has become a pirate named Redd, who pillages the town’s rum supply, according to the Disney Parks Blog.

 “Just as Walt Disney embraced and encouraged Disney Parks to ‘keep moving forward’ since the opening of Disneyland Park in 1955, Walt Disney Imagineering has introduced many new characters at Pirates of the Caribbean attraction over the years,” according to the Disney Parks Blog.

Trending - Most Read Stories