31 Seattle hospital patients' frozen embryos mistakenly destroyed

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The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle mistakenly destroyed frozen embryos in 2014, affecting 31 patients, a hospital spokesperson confirmed to KIRO 7.

The error was not publicly known until one of the affected couples recently filed a lawsuit citing negligence and breach of contract.

The written agreement between the couple and UW Medical Center said the couple would relinquish control of their frozen embryos "if they have not remained in contact with the IVF program for a period of three years," but the female patient reportedly had contact with the hospital in June 2012, according to the lawsuit.

Two years later, "without notice and/or warning, UWMC discarded and/or destroyed [the patients'] cryopreserved embryos," the lawsuit claims. The complaint also includes parts of a 2017 letter the hospital reportedly sent to the couple that acknowledges the couple had been in contact prior to the embryos being discarded.

The mistake at UW Medical Center comes months after equipment failures at a fertility clinic in San Francisco and Cleveland-based University Hospitals may have destroyed thousands of eggs and embryos.

"When we learned what happened with the [plaintiffs'] embryos, we reached out to them to apologize, hear their concerns and offer our support," Seattle hospital officials said. "Since the occurrence of this event in 2014, we have developed new processes for managing the storage of embryos and instituted procedures and protocols that prevent similar events." 

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