Lawsuit: Oil Meant to Keep Embryos Safe Killed Them All

Complaint filed after Fujifilm Irvine Scientific recalls oil used in IVF process due to 'toxicity'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2023 9:40 AM CST
Lawsuit: Oil Meant to Keep Embryos Safe Killed Them All
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/kzenon)

A mineral oil manufactured by Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is used during the delicate in vitro fertilization process, mainly to prevent evaporation during culturing so that the embryo doesn't dry up and die. A couple from Los Angeles, however, say the oil proved toxic to all of their embryos, and that they now fear they may never have biological children. The unnamed pair filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Orange County company in which they say Fujifilm issued a recall for four production lots of the oil in mid-January, after an internal probe spurred by complaints from multiple clinics, reports the Los Angeles Times. Fujifilm sent the recall notice, which noted the "complete degradation" of some embryos, to fertility clinics only; it didn't post anything on its own website or otherwise alert the public.

The couple involved in the complaint say they only found out about the recall after their own fertility clinic notified them that the oil had destroyed all nine of their embryos. Fujifilm, for its part, says that the initial number of complaints had been "small," that it had conducted an "extensive investigation," and that the oil in question had been up to its standards before shipping. The company notes that its probe found "oil toxicity" in three lots, and that it also recalled a fourth lot since it had been created from the same batch of raw ingredients. Fujifilm also appeared to try to deflect some of the blame from the oil, noting in a statement that "many factors may influence the success of IVF procedures." Ultimately, none of that helps this particular couple, who say they're "devastated," per their complaint.

"People become, quite understandably, very emotionally attached to their embryos," says Adam Wolf, an attorney representing the couple, per the Washington Post. "Those embryos represent their future children and their ability to become parents." The suit alleges that not only did Fujifilm not properly test its oil before shipping, it didn't adequately publicize the recall. Wolf adds that if the case goes to trial, Fujifilm "needs to be held accountable," with "real serious, lasting repercussions." Still, Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, a reproductive endocrinologist and founder of the Fertility Institutes, says people going through the IVF process shouldn't go into a panic over this case. "Things happen very fast in IVF, including toxicity," he tells CBS News. "The big thing to look for is the long-term success rates of the clinic." (More human embryos stories.)

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