This could not be an easy conversation.  

“The eggs or embryos we have been storing may have been lost.” 

Two fertility clinics recently reported technical problems with storage tanks that may have damaged frozen eggs and embryos. Many of these are from women and couples struggling with infertility.  Or they may have anticipated future problems – for example, banking eggs in advance of chemotherapy. There were hundreds, if not thousands of stories, each unique to the individuals.  

Some of the eggs had been in storage for as long as ten years.  

One clinic’s president said: 

His discussions with patients were emotional. “Anger is a big part of the phone call,” he said. “Our goal is to provide all the patients we see with some kind of a family. . . . We need to think: If this tissue doesn’t work, what are the next steps, and have you not feel defeated.” 

Lawsuits have already been filed against University Hospitals in Cleveland.  

In insurance parlance, these are known as low frequency; high severity events. They rarely happen. But, when they do, they cause a great deal of damage. 

Information technology tackled similar issues head-on many years ago. If all of one’s data is in one physical location, and some calamity befalls that one location, the data is lost. If the data is backed up, or stored, in more than one location, the data lives. 

While today it costs almost nothing to store data in more than one location, that was not always the case. Costs to store data have come down over the past two decades. But, even when it DID cost some amount to backup data, forward thinking organizations just did it. The price of being left without the data was just too great.   

Perhaps eggs and embryos can be stored in more than one location. In metro regions, it may be possible for clinics to pool resources and have a common bank- or even just a transfer some biological specimens from one clinic to another.  

This problem is not limited to eggs and embryos.  

When babies are born, many parents are now being given the option of storing umbilical blood. Why? Potential use down the road as stem cells.  

When you really need it, you want to make sure it’s available.  

If you really want to be sure, you need a backup. 

As they say in the wilderness with survival tools. “Two is one. One is none.” 

Insurance companies pool their low frequency, high severity events with other companies. Reinsurance. This keeps any single carrier from getting wiped out. It’s insurance for insurance. 

Likely these two high profile clinics had generator backups and sophisticated early warning detection to mitigate risk for eggs thawing. That will be cold comfort to the families affected. Multi-location storage is probably around the corner.  

What do you think? 


Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.

Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.

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