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Lawyers want evidence protected for case of destroyed frozen sperm

Attorney Matthew Jankins speaks mediregarding 
allegations thfrozen sperm samples three patients were destroyed by Northwestern Memorial Hospital Monday July 16

Attorney Matthew Jankins speaks to the media, regarding allegations that frozen sperm samples of three patients were destroyed by Northwestern Memorial Hospital, on Monday, July 16, 2012, in Chicago. | Chandler West~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 18, 2012 6:12AM

Amid allegations that the frozen sperm of three patients was destroyed while in the possession of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, a Chicago law firm representing the men filed an emergency petition in Circuit Court on Monday to determine what happened.

Among the victims is a 33-year-old leukemia patient who was told the chemotherapy would make him sterile, according to Chicago law firm Corboy & Demetrio. In that and at least two other cases, the patients were either ill or undergoing treatment that could leave them infertile

A “bill of discovery” has been filed to “preserve, protect and investigate” evidence including the “operation and maintenance of Northwestern’s cryopreservation and storage system,” the law firm said in a prepared statement.

The aim is to see what went wrong — and when. The patients will then decide whether to file suit against the hospital.

“This is absolutely unforgivable. These families have lost the opportunity to have children of their own and we believe they’re entitled to answers,” Matthew Jenkins, attorney for the patients, said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

 The hospital sent a letter to the patients on June 3 informing them that the sperm had been destroyed, according to Jenkins.

One patient, a 48-year-old man suffering a genetic disorder, first learned of the mishap after visiting the hospital with his wife to use the sperm.      

 The patients’ names are currently being kept private due to the sensitive nature of the case.

In a prepared statement, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation acknowledged that during the weekend of April 21-22 “a cryogenic storage tank” used by the foundation for storing sperm samples “malfunctioned.”

An alarm system also failed to alert foundation technicians to the problem that was ultimately discovered on the following Monday.

“We deeply regret that this occurred, and understand how upsetting this can be to our patients, so our primary focus has been on them and their needs,” the foundation statement reads.

The foundation is doing its own investigation to determine the cause of the equipment failure.

A hospital spokesperson did not offer an immediate comment.

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