On August 20, 2013, forty (40) lawsuits were filed in the Cook County Circuit Court (Illinois) against Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation on behalf of men whose frozen sperm specimens that were stored by the defendants so that they could possibly become biological fathers sometime in the future (many of the men had illnesses that may lead to sterility or needed medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, that could affect their sterility) were likely destroyed when a cryopreservation storage tank in which they were kept frozen failed. Three of the plaintiffs were minors at the time of the tank failure, with one being 14-years-old who was suffering from a rare form of cancer.
The lawsuits allege that in April 2012, the storage tank failed and that the defendants’ staff failed to adequately monitor the system and failed to adequately respond to the failure, causing the sperm specimens and testicular tissue specimens stored in the tank to be damaged. The lawsuits further allege that the defendants placed all of the specimens in one storage tank, instead of placing the specimens in multiple tanks that were available. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated after filing the sperm bank lawsuits, “It’s a no-brainer that we learn in kindergarten that you’re not supposed to store all your eggs in one basket. They were taking vials — multiple vials from people who were banking sperm under these terrible circumstances — and putting them all in one tank when they had many tanks available to them.”
The defendants acknowledge that during the weekend of April 21 – 23, 2012, the sperm bank equipment failed, affecting more than 250 patients who were later advised of the malfunction. In a statement released on the same day that the lawsuits were filed, the defendants stated, “we deeply regret that this equipment malfunction occurred.” The defendants allege, however, that many of the specimens that were stored in the malfunctioning tank may still be viable for use in in vitro fertilization.
The lawsuits were filed as “John Doe” lawsuits (in which the plaintiffs’ real names were not used) in order to protect the identity and the privacy of the plaintiffs because “[n]ot everybody wants the outside world, the local Chicago community, to know what sort of medical treatments they were going through, how tough chemo was and all those sorts of things, and that’s why they all chose to file …. as John Does.”
Imagine a young man being told that he has a serious disease, such as cancer, and then being advised that the medical treatment for the disease may cause him to become sterile. Imagine further the young man being given the option of preserving his sperm for later use before treatment begins so that he may father a child(ren) sometime after he is treated and cured. That little ray of hope for the future must be a beacon of immortality that provides some comfort to the man during his time of desperation.
At some point in the future, can you imagine the utter devastation and despair that must be felt when the man is told that the sperm bank’s equipment failed and that the sperm bank had failed to foresee and prepare for such a failure by taking reasonable precautions to preserve the man’s sperm specimen by placing the vials of sperm in different storage tanks?
If you or a loved one suffered egregious emotional injuries as a result of the negligence of a sperm bank, you should promptly seek to consult with a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your sperm bank claim for you and file a claim against the sperm bank, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you with a claim against a sperm bank.
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