fertility industry

Embryo oversight needed in Ohio

Published by The Toledo Blade


January 7, 2019

The destruction of 4,000 embryos following an equipment malfunction at a suburban Cleveland fertility clinic last March wiped out the chances for many would-be parents hoping to conceive children.

One woman had sought fertility therapy before cancer treatments and could no longer produce her own eggs. Another lost the only embryos created with her husband who had since died.

Ohio Department of Health officials who investigated called the incident preventable, citing the clinic’s problems keeping good records of the temperatures and liquid-nitrogen levels in the tanks where embryos were preserved.

What shocked many in the months that followed was that the clinic and the fertility industry in general operated largely without much government oversight.

How could a health-care endeavor with so much at stake not be monitored by authorities to make sure they were using best practices to keep embryos safe?

In the aftermath, then-State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D., Boardman) consulted fertility experts and hospitals to craft a bill to create first-of-its-kind regulation of the fertility industry.

The legislation would require standardized procedures for storing and freezing human embryos — the kinds of procedures that might have prevented the mishap at University Hospitals Fertility Clinic.

But then the bill stalled in the General Assembly, failing to get a vote before the session ended.

Mr. Schiavoni — whose term ended and who will not return for the new session this year — cannot continue to shepherd the measure by reintroducing it. This means the bill needs a new champion — someone Mr. Schiavoni was searching for during his last days in office.

U.S. lawmakers have largely shied away from attempts at regulating fertility clinics and the industry has typically argued that such regulation is unnecessary. The University Hospitals Fertility Clinic case is more than enough evidence that this is not so. Other countries, including the United Kingdom and Sweden, have laws to stringently monitor fertility clinics and protect the embryos stored there.

Prospective parents who often spend thousands and thousands of dollars on fertility treatments have a right to expect that facilities they turn to are accountable and practicing the safest methods.

The hopes and dreams of these moms and dads need a champion in Columbus. Another legislator should pick up the fight where Mr. Schiavoni left off and push the issue forward in the new term.


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