What families should know before storing their eggs and embryos

As two fertility clinics conduct internal investigations after refrigerator malfunctions, Dr. Jennifer Ashton discuss tips for those thinking of storing their eggs and what to look for in a clinic.
4:46 | 03/12/18

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Transcript for What families should know before storing their eggs and embryos
We want to turn to our "Gma" cover story. Questions growing over those fertility clinic failures. Thousands of eggs and embryos possibly damaged at now two different clinics. Ere yeielle reshef is back with more. Reporter: The devastating news is compounded by agonizing wait times to see if the eggs and embryos are viable. This morning, one family in Cleveland suing over their fertility nightmare. For the ashe family, a heartbreaking new reality. You put so much faith into the physicians and the medical team, and -- like I said, just to have this taken away and to be -- just -- your hopes and dreamed destroyed. Reporter: This morning, they're the first parkts to file a lawsuit against university hospitals in Cleveland, after a freerz malfunction left the viability of 2,000 eggs and embryos in question. At this point, we don't know the viability of all of the stoerd eggs and embryos. We know some have been impacted. Reporter: The ashes had been storing their embryos since 2014. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age, there are not better safe dpards and practicing that could be put in place. Reporter: And now, an anxious wait for patients at a separate clinic. Because there's an unknown, it's extremely stressful and emotional. Reporter: San Francisco's pacific fertility center telling ABC news more than400 patients may have been affected when like window nitrogen levels dropped. I have been practicing in this field with freezing tissue for 35 years. This is the first event where two tanks of this nature have failed. Reporter: Patients receiving a letter informing them of the issue. It read our most senior embreeologists took immediate action. The tank was retired. The facility is operating securely. Viles are frozen in liquid nitrogen containers in temperatures around minus 321 degrees fahrenheit. Stopping biological function. The embryos must be thawed and preserved. The process could take months to conclude. Centers across the country are responding by rechecking their own safeguards. They are also reaching out the to patients to reassure them while heart breaking, these kips of malfunctions are rare. So infuriating for so many families. Let's bring in Dr. Jennifer Ashton. What happened with these tanks? We don't know because to be clear, something of this manager any Tuesday has never happened before. And to have two such incidents separated in geographic location and happening within 24 hours of each other, time-wise, is really historic. I want to take you through a deep dive of these cryotanks. People think this is like your refrigerator or freezer at home and as longs a it's connected to a power supply, it works. Completely different. This just needs liquid nitrogen. We're talk about negative 321 degrees. So this is all dependent on the level of liquid nitrogen. A level of this liquid. When that level starts to drop by usually evaporation because it's checked daily, there are multiple safeguard systems in place. Something of this magnitude doesn't happen because of one error. There have to be multiple failures at various points. There are alarmed that go off in the labs. These labs are staffed seven days a week with human personnel. There's an electronic notification like a snow day snow chain. If the first person doesn't pick up, the second person is called. You could be going through this for a variety of reasons. Ivf. You're most concerned because of women going through this because of chance E treatments. Exactly. It's called onco-preservation. It's heartbreaking for everyone involved. People freeze eggs and embryos a lot of times before undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. They don't have a second chance. We don't know how many of the tissues are from patients fighting cancer. We have to remember that that's it for those people. If their tissues are dajd. They don't get a second chance. What do woe know about what's being done to prevent this from happening again? I was on the the phone last night with the president of the American society for reproductive medicine. They're offering the full resources of both asrm and start to help the clinics up vest gate

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