Power Outage at Tel Aviv Hospital's IVF Lab Damages Fertilized Eggs

Assuta Medical Center power supply cut following a power system test conducted by an independent electrical engineer.

A power outage at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv has damaged the fertilized eggs of nine couples undergoing in vitro fertilization, rendering them unusable, the hospital said this week.

Assuta hospital.

The power supply was accidentally cut off for several minutes when an independent electrical engineer was conducting a test of the power system Friday, the hospital said in a statement.

Assuta officials told the couples - including one from abroad who came to Israel specifically for IVF treatment - that they shouldn't use the eggs because the freezing process was likely to have failed. The hospital said it would pay for additional treatments.

"It was not a system failure, but a human error by the engineer who carried out a particular action in the system," said Assuta's chief of gynecology, Dr. Rami Mushonov. "The electrical systems at Assuta are intact and are backed up continuously. We have approached all the couples and sat with each individually to explain what happened to them."

The hospital said it has thoroughly examined the incident and reviewed its practices "to make sure that this will not happen again." The Health Ministry said it has yet to decide whether to appoint an investigatory committee.

In seven of the nine cases, the sperm of prospective fathers had been injected into eggs obtained from Ukrainian egg donors, and the couples must now seek new egg donors abroad.

In the other two cases, the eggs were obtained from the prospective mothers, who must now undergo the egg-retrieval process again, an operation conducted under general anesthesia after the patients receive hormone injections for 10 days.

The incident occurred in the labs at the hospital's NIS 700 million campus in Ramat Hahayal in Tel Aviv, which was inaugurated a year ago and is now the most luxurious private hospital in Israel.

This isn't the first time that errors have occurred in Israeli IVF labs.

In May 2007 the eggs of three married women being treated at the Herzliya Medical Center were fertilized with sperm from men who were not their husbands - though the mistake was discovered before the eggs were implanted.

And at Hasharon Hospital (now part of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva ), a 2002 error in the sealing process for frozen fertilized eggs rendered unusable 500 eggs belonging to 120 women.