LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Beverly Hills fertility clinic destroyed a woman's fertilized embryos and waited a year to tell her, the woman claims in court.
Marisa Yukich sued ART Reproductive Center and its co-founder Dr. David L. Hill in Superior Court Wednesday.
"This is the first case that we are aware of that will go to trial based on a fertility clinic's destruction of someone's embryos," plaintiff's attorney Adam Wolf told Courthouse News.
"ART took from Marisa her most precious property: her fertilized eggs. Marisa naturally viewed them as her future children. ART took away her opportunity for motherhood," he said.
Yukich is unsure whether she is emotionally able to undergo the egg extraction procedure again, and whether it would work if she did, Wolf said.
According to several published studies and the information on ART's own website, the older a woman gets, the lower her chances are of successfully conceiving. By destroying Yukich's eggs, ART took away her best chance for motherhood, Wolf said.
"The center had an obligation not to destroy the embryos. Moreover, should a horrific incident occur, they were obligated to tell her as soon as possible. Not wait a year. ART violated both of those obvious obligations," he said.
In her 17- page complaint, Yukich says she was a patient at ART for two years. "During that time, she entrusted ART with her most sensitive and important personal property: her fertilized eggs. Marisa was going to use the pre-embryos to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother."
"ART promised to safeguard and protect Marisa's fertilized eggs, vouching to maximize Marisa's chances of becoming pregnant and raising children. Despite its agreement to maintain this position of extreme trust and fidelity, ART recklessly and/or negligently destroyed Marisa's fertilized eggs, in direct violation of her express request and ART's own contractual guarantees," the complaint continues.
Yukich says she was 36 years old when she decided to try in vitro fertilization to become a mom. According to her research, older women have a lower chance of conceiving and bringing a fetus to term. Eggs grow more fragile with age and the likelihood of miscarriage and genetic mutations increases, but extracting and freezing eggs when a woman is still young can preserve her fertility and enable her to become pregnant at a later date.
Extracted eggs are preserved through a process called cryopreservation, in which fertilized eggs are treated with a special solution to protect them from freezing, then gradually cooled to sub-freezing temperatures and placed in liquid nitrogen for storage. Since roughly 35 percent of eggs do not survive thawing, women must have many eggs extracted to increase the probability of a viable pre-embryo, according to the complaint.
Once thawed, several eggs are then implanted in the woman's uterus to increase the likelihood of a pregnancy, the complaint states.
Yukich says she "put a lot of thought" into choosing a doctor and ultimately selected ART because its website and promotional materials trumpeted its "purportedly high standards of care, treatment, and technology" and promised never to destroy someone's eggs or sperm.
Before having her eggs extracted, Yukich says she had to take ovulation stimulation drugs and hormonal injections daily by needle for about two weeks, undergo several blood tests and ultrasounds, and go to doctors appointments every other day - which cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, since her insurance did not cover infertility treatments.