Dead embryos implanted into aspiring moms hoping to start families, California suits say

A fertility clinic is accused of exposing over a dozen embryos inside an incubator to hydrogen peroxide, leading to failed pregnancies and heartbreak for several California couples.

The exposure to the chemicals killed the embryos, which were then transplanted into at least 11 women who received in vitro fertilization services at Ovation Fertility’s lab in Newport Beach in January, according to three lawsuits filed against the clinic.

Embryo implantation is the last step of IVF, a process that can help couples struggling to have children on their own and can potentially lead to pregnancy.

Ovation Fertility is accused of knowing the embryos were dead when they were transferred into the aspiring mothers — who had no idea, according to a complaint filed by nine couples April 23.

These couples received photos of their embryos the day of their implantation procedures and were under the impression that their chances of getting pregnant were greater than 75%, the complaint says.

They “cherished the photos of the tiny lives they hoped to bring into the world,” the complaint states. “Little did they know that their embryos were already dead due to Ovation’s wrongdoing.”

After the pregnancies failed, “the couples blamed themselves and their bodies,” the complaint says.

Ovation Fertility is accused of attempting to cover up the mistakes at its Newport Beach lab — and trying to “trick” the couples into signing an agreement that would release the clinic from liability in exchange for lab fee refunds, according to the complaint.

On April 18, two similar lawsuits were filed separately by two couples against Ovation Fertility in Newport Beach.

“Ovation Fertility’s failings resulted in a needless tragedy for likely dozens of would-be parents,” attorney Adam B. Wolf, who is representing these two couples, told McClatchy News on April 24.

“For some of the victims, they might not be able to have biologically related children as a result,” he said.

Ovation Fertility, which says it is one of the top IVF service providers in the U.S. online, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.




For one of the couples who are plaintiffs in the April 23 complaint against Ovation Fertility, they started their IVF process in 2023 following three miscarriages and fertility struggles.

In their own words, according to the complaint, the Catalina Island couple says “infertility treatment consumed (their) entire lives” — leading to a “low-grade” male embryo and a “high-grade” female embryo. This couple chose to remain anonymous in the court filing.

“We took our best chances, and transferred our girl — named Kalani Noelle — on January 29, 2024,” the complaint states. “As it was later discovered, (she) had no actual chance at all as she was killed in a lab error before she was implanted,” the complaint says.

“Our hearts are broken, and we will forever mourn the loss of our girl embryo,” the complaint states.

Another couple, Brooke Berger and Bennett Hardy, of Fullerton, identified themselves as plaintiffs in the complaint, which says they had two viable embryos that they trusted in Ovation Fertility’s care.

After the clinic thawed and implanted both embryos, which were dead, into Berger on Jan. 25, the couple now has “no children, and no remaining embryos,” the complaint states.

Following a series of hormone shots and invasive egg retrieval procedures, the couples’ embryos became unviable because hydrogen peroxide — instead of distilled water — was introduced to the embryos inside the lab’s incubator, according to the complaint.

“We found out that we went through all of this for nothing,” Berger told People in an interview. “It was really heartbreaking.”

Berger and the eight other couples are represented by attorneys Robert H. Marcereau and Michelle B. Hemesath.

The lawsuits represented by Wolf say the employees working at Ovation Fertility weren’t “properly trained on how to operate the incubator.”

The clinic is accused of hiring “inexperienced, cheap, unqualified, and untrained employees to cut corners and maximize profits — at the expense of the health and safety of its patients and their embryos,” the other complaint states.

All three lawsuits, filed in Orange County, seek an unspecified amount of damages and demand a jury trial for medical battery, negligent misrepresentation and hiring, and more.

The couples “look forward to telling their stories at the time of trial,” the April 23 complaint says.

Ovation Fertility has 22 IVF labs in the U.S., according to its website.

Full Story: The Sacramento Bee April 24 2024