40 lawsuits filed against Northwestern over destroyed sperm

40 lawsuits filed against Northwestern over destroyed sperm

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Forty separate lawsuits—one for each of the patients whose sperm samples were allegedly destroyed while stored in a chamber owned by Northwestern Memorial Hospital—were filed Tuesday.

The suits allege that in April 2012, the cryopreservation and storage procedure at Northwestern failed, causing damage to semen and testicular tissue. It further alleges that after it failed, Northwestern failed to adequately monitor and respond when it knew or should have known that its system failed.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, which maintain the lab, were named as defendants.

In a statement issued at the time of the system failure, the Northwestern Faculty Foundation issued a statement saying its personnel discovered on Monday, April 23, 2012, that a cryogenic storage tank used for long-term storage of sperm samples malfunctioned over the weekend, according to an NFF statement.

A round-the-clock alarm system embedded in the control panel failed to alert technicians to the problem, which was discovered during routine operations.

The sperm samples were immediately transferred to a working cryogenic freezer but suffered "adverse impact," the statement said, adding many samples can still be used for in vitro fertilization.

Physicians personally contacted 200 patients to inform them of the equipment failure and to help "plan their best next steps," the statement said.

"Most of the plaintiffs have suffered serious illness or were undergoing medical treatment that would likely render them infertile. Freezing their sperm was the only real hope they had for ever having biological children," said Corboy & Demetrio attorney Matthew T. Jenkins, attorney for the plaintiffs.

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