Medically Frozen Sperm Samples Thawed and Destroyed

Northwestern Memorial Hospital logoMedically frozen sperm samples were thawed and destroyed at urology facilities operated by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Faculty Foundation, according to two lawsuits filed this week by the law firm of Burke Wise Morrissey Kaveny (BWMK).  The two lawsuits were filed in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of plaintiffs whose stored sperm had been thawed between April and June 2012 without their knowledge or consent.

BWMK Partner Elizabeth Kaveny filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Nicholas Harris, who since 2011 had entrusted and stored his sperm at the facilities.  Harris is the first plaintiff to be formally identified by name in bringing action against Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Faculty Foundation for the destruction of cryopreserved sperm that had been thawed and destroyed.

Harris, age 25, was diagnosed in 2011 with synovial sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, after a simple fall left him with significant and unrelenting hip and thigh pain.  Following biopsy and diagnosis, Harris’ physicians recommended that he preserve sperm before he began his intensive cancer treatment regimen, which has included both chemotherapy and radiation, which Harris did. That sperm was erroneously destroyed and the destruction is the basis of his suit. Harris is still undergoing chemotherapy.

“The destruction of Nicholas’ sperm, and with it, his chance to have children, has caused this young man considerable suffering on top of an already difficult battle with cancer.  He has lost a certain piece of mind that came with knowing a piece of him would survive,” Kaveny stated.

A second and similar lawsuit was brought by BWMK’s Francis P. (Frank) Morrissey on behalf of unidentified plaintiff “Jeffrey Doe,” whose sperm samples had been entrusted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Faculty Foundation for cryopreservation since 2008, but were also erroneously thawed and destroyed.

Both complaints allege that that the defendants were negligent in failing to provide a reasonably safe cryogenic storage facility, failing to have adequate alarms in place for the safekeeping of sperm samples and allowing the plaintiffs’ sperm samples to thaw between April and June 2012.  After this period each of the plaintiffs was informed by letter that the destruction had occurred, depriving each plaintiff of the ability to biologically conceive a child.  Press reports have indicated that hundreds of other individuals were contacted by defendant Northwestern Memorial Faculty Foundation to inform them of similar destruction.

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