Lawyers representing families in a lawsuit against University Hospitals held a press conference Thursday afternoon, where they claimed the number of people believed to have been impacted by a March fertility clinic failure is larger than initially thought.
According to Joseph Peiffer of the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane, a woman reached out to them saying she received a letter just last week informing her and her husband that their embryos had been compromised when the temperature in the tank rose to dangerous levels. The woman claims UH previously told her the embryos were not damaged.
Peiffer accused UH of "underst[ing] the scope of the problem, including a doubling of the number of embryos lost [from initially 2,000 to 4,000]."
"This is the reason that we called months ago for an independent monitor," he added. "UH has shown no ability to handle this situation and keeps proving our point."
On Monday, the hospital asked a judge for a gag order against the families' attorneys, claiming they have made "inflammatory and prejudicial statements" to the media. PWCK has strongly condemned that request, and believes a gag order might have been a way to cover up the release of new letters and a possible expansion of the number of embryos lost.
Attorney Lydia Floyd, speaking on behalf of PWCK, said:
"UH needs to come clean now and we mean in the next 24 hours. Was this an isolated case or are there more shoes to drop like this? How many other patients were given good news about their embryos in March only to be crushed like this now? Just how bad a situation is this? Not only should UH formally withdraw its gag order, it should stop saying in court that it has no liability in this situation. We have a brand new example this week months after the first news that shows UH needs to step up and take care of its hundreds of victims, rather than trying to close the courthouse doors and stay out of the news."
The woman who received the letter, who has asked to remain anonymous, has now become a client in the lawsuit, according to PWCK.
On Thursday evening, University Hospitals sent the following statement to WKYC's Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins:
“To be very clear, no other embryos or eggs were affected. The letters the plaintiffs’ attorneys apparently referenced in their news conference today were letters sent to two patients who had eggs or embryos donated to them. The letters made those two families aware of the situation. They were the only patients in this situation. In the letter we sincerely apologized to those patients that communications regarding this situation had not reached them more quickly.
“Any characterization that additional eggs or embryos were impacted is inaccurate and further illustrates why we have asked the court to ensure communications from attorneys in this matter are limited to the courtroom and not through hastily called news conferences.”