WAVE OF LITIGATION LIKELY AS UNREGULATED U.S. FERTILITY CLINICS LEFT WOMEN IN THE LURCH IN IVF TREATMENT DURING COVID-19 SHUTDOWN

More than Six Cases Documented Already; San Francisco Woman Tells of “Chaos,” “Shabby Treatment” As Pacific Fertility Center Victimized Her Again After Her Embryo Was in Broken Freezer in 2018; Law Firm Renews Its Call for Ending Unregulated “Wild West” Days of Fertility Clinics and Adopting UK Oversight Model.

SAN FRANCISCO – May 14, 2020 More than half a dozen complaints of women and couples abandoned by unregulated U.S. fertility clinics during the coronavirus pandemic are seen as the “tip of the iceberg” of abuse that is likely to result in a wave of lawsuits in the coming months, according to the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway (Peiffer Wolf).  Faced with what is only the latest in a long string of fertility clinic failures, Peiffer Wolf renewed its April 2019 call for regulation of U.S. fertility clinics based on the successful oversight scheme in the United Kingdom.

Peiffer Wolf highlighted a range of complaints from women who were abandoned during the Covid-19 shutdown at various stages of the costly, painful and expensive IVF process:

  • In one case, a woman who had started her IVF process was notified by voicemail that the clinic was closed and her treatment ended.

 

  • A couple only found out on the internet that their fertility center had closed, and thus they could not attend their appointment the following week.

 

  • One woman was just days away from the completion of her IVF treatment when her fertility clinic shut down with no advance notice.  She was provided no guidance as to what to do in her condition or what additional steps and/or precautions to take.

 

Adam Wolf, attorney and partner, Peiffer Wolf said:  “Everyone understands that things slowed down with the coronavirus pandemic. But fertility clinics should not use the coronavirus as a ‘get out of jail free’ card to excuse the shabby, chaotic and even cruel treatment of women and couples.  It is time that we start regulating fertility clinics in the U.S. more tightly than nail salons. The coronavirus pandemic is no excuse for women and families going through the pain, expense and uncertainty of IVF to be treated in such an inexcusable fashion.”

Joseph Peiffer, attorney and managing shareholder, Peiffer Wolf said: “The cases we are hearing about are just the tip of the iceberg. There will be a wave of lawsuits by women and families who were basically abandoned in the IVF process when Covid-19 hit. Our 2019 report warned of the dangers of an unregulated fertility clinic industry that is raking in huge amounts of money without any meaningful state or federal regulations.  We need to look very seriously at how the United Kingdom regulates these clinics in a way that does a far better job of protecting the public.”

Anu Mokashi, a San Francisco area woman who has been victimized twice by Pacific Fertility Center (Pacific Fertility), spoke at the news event.  In 2018, Mokashi and her husband were among the large group of victims when Pacific Fertility experienced a storage tank failure that destroyed hundreds of eggs and embryos.  Nonetheless, Mokashi, who is part of a class action lawsuit against Pacific Fertility for the large-scale embryo destruction, continued IVF treatment at the clinic.

When Pacific Fertility shut down for the coronavirus pandemic, Mokashi was left with no information.  She was not permitted to continue her care at Pacific Fertility, even when other clinics were still open. Pacific Fertility also did not make it easy for her to transition her time-sensitive care to nearby clinics that re-opened far earlier. When other clinics resumed operations and reached out to customers, Pacific Fertility remained inaccessible to Mokashi. Pacific Fertility did not even respond to Mokashi’s concerns in a timely fashion.

Commenting on her latest bad experience with Pacific Fertility Center, Mokashi said:  “The fertility journey is emotionally so challenging. The lack of regulation, the lack of transparency makes it even harder. I am here today participating in this news event because other people wanting to conceive should know the current situation with fertility clinics in the U.S.”

The roots and possible solutions to the worsening situation in the U.S. are addressed in the Peiffer Wolf issue briefer, “The Fertility Center Regulation Crisis in the U.S.,” released in August 2019. The report notes:  “U.S. fertility centers are almost entirely unregulated today, unlike the tighter oversight in such nations as Estonia, Abu Dhabi, Germany and the United Kingdom … For U.S. fertility centers, the result is a near ‘Wild West’ situation where meaningful oversight is absent, error reporting is essentially voluntary, and tragic cases of lost, destroyed or otherwise improperly handled embryos are on the rise, including more than 5,000 embryos and eggs known to have been lost or destroyed in less than two years.”

Where could the United States turn to for a model to regulate fertility clinics?

 

The 2019 Peiffer Wolf report recommends that the U.S. follow the lead of the United Kingdom, where a national agency requires that all facilities comply with a standard of professional conduct that covers “all details of the clinical and embryological practice associated with assisted reproductive technology.” That agency is the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

In operation since 1990, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority oversees nearly every aspect of 69,000 fertility procedures a year at 131 licensed clinics in the United Kingdom. The key elements of the work of the HFEA are as follows: (1) clinics must apply for a license from the Authority to operate; (2) licenses are granted for up to four years at a time; (3) inspections are carried out periodically and can be done on a surprise basis; (4) inspections can result in recommended changes to clinic practices and even outright license revocation; (5) the Authority sets standards for clinics to ensure high quality care; (6) it provides guidance to clinics and research centers on how to meet all legal requirements. The HFEA’s actions are highly transparent, including the online publication of the outcomes of all clinic inspections. It also provides the public with unbiased, non-commercial information about IVF and other procedures.

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ABOUT PEIFFER WOLF

Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway is a national law firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Austin and New Orleans. Peiffer Wolf is nationally recognized for representing victims of misconduct by fertility clinics and fertility doctors, including destroying or losing eggs and embryos. This is a highly technical area of law and science; individuals seeking legal representation in such matters would be well advised to look to a law firm that has successfully handled such cases in the past. www.LostEmbryos.com

MEDIA CONTACTS: Max Karlin (national), (703) 276-3255 or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com and Whitney Dunlap (California), (703) 229-1489 or wdunlap@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available as of 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT  on May 14th at www.LostEmbryos.com.

 

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Peiffer Wolf is nationally recognized for representing victims of fertility clinic misconduct, including destruction or loss of eggs and embryos. If your family has been a victim of fertility clinic misconduct, Contact Us by calling 415-766-3545 or by filling out an online Contact Form for a FREE Consultation.