Choosing in vitro fertilization to begin or enlarge a family can be a difficult path to parenthood, one that may be fraught with disappointment. But one North Attleboro woman was shocked at the discovery that a Providence, Rhode Island, fertility clinic retained a cryopreserved "morula," or embryo in its early stages, from her in vitro fertility efforts back in 2004.
The woman and her late husband were parents of one son when they turned to the fertility specialists at Women & Infants Hospital. It took three treatment cycles to produce four embryos, none of which were viable, according to the woman's doctor. They were never implanted, and the couple ceased their efforts soon after.
Later, the woman's husband died. She later remarried her present husband.
Fast forward to 2017. The woman was then 43. She received a notice in the mail from Women & Infants Hospital stating she owed $500 to continue storing her frozen embryo.
In her shock, she contacted the hospital administrator and learned that there was a frozen embryo in storage. But, due to her first husband passing away, she could never get permission to implant the embryo or even destroy it.
She filed suit against the hospital on the grounds that their negligent actions prevented her attempt to have another baby and caused "severe emotional distress."
Her attorney claimed that there was no record of doctors requesting the woman and her late husband to sign off on forms designating their intentions for any embryos that remained.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, it's standard operating procedures to have clients sign the forms, as without their signatures, the hospital can take no actions regarding the embryos.
This situation illustrates the problems that can occur when technology is stymied by human error. Those facing similar circumstances may also want to seek legal redress for any damages and losses.