Mobile Infirmary faces wrongful death lawsuits over destroyed embryos

Alabama News
Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Three couples have filed civil wrongful death lawsuits against Mobile Infirmary Medical Center and a local fertility clinic, alleging the hospital and clinic were negligent after a hospital patient wandered into an embryology laboratory and dropped five frozen embryos that had undergone in vitro fertilization, according to court documents filed in September.

The lawsuits cite a judge’s concurring opinion in a 2016 Alabama case, Stinnett v. Kennedy, that said “a zygote or embryo is the beginning of a new human life” and “this court reaffirms the principle that unborn children are protected by Alabama’s wrongful-death statute from the moment life begins at conception.”

According to the court filings, a patient at Mobile Infirmary left their hospital room on Dec. 20, 2020, and wandered to the Center for Reproductive Medicine’s (CRM) fertility clinic and embryology laboratory, where embryos are cryogenically preserved. The lawsuits allege the laboratory “had been negligently left unlocked and unmonitored.” The patient, according to the filings, removed the embryos and was burned by the subzero temperatures, causing them to drop the embryos “on the floor where they began to slowly die.”

The lawsuits allege that by the time CRM staff discovered the dropped embryos, the embryos of six different patients, including those of the plaintiffs, “had died.”

“Wrongfully causing the death of an embryonic human being is no different than causing the death of a human being at any other stage of life,” reads one of the lawsuits. “Embryonic human beings are human beings.”

As for negligence, the lawsuits allege the clinic did not properly guard the embryos in its care.

“This is no different than DHR regulations requiring that entry into daycare centers be secured and closely guarded. And the reasoning is the same: small children, including embryos, cannot protect themselves. Thus, those who willingly agree to care for them must do so with utmost care, attention, and security,” according to one of the lawsuits filed.

Both lawsuits are requesting a trial by jury. One lawsuit states that should Alabama’s wrongful death laws not apply to the in vitro fertilized embryos, the plaintiffs will demand a judgment for compensatory damages for the value of the “embryonic human beings that were wrongfully destroyed,” severe mental anguish and emotional distress.

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