Thousands of abandoned embryos and sperm samples set for destruction


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Thousands of orphaned sperm samples and embryos are set for destruction after a B.C. fertility clinic closed.

Nearly 3,000 sperm and more than 1,000 embryos are in cold storage at the cost of almost $2,000 a day after the government-owned Vancouver clinic shut down in November.

The Provincial Health Services Authority, which is responsible for the clinic, has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking for a court order to have the specimens disposed of if the remaining clients cannot be contacted.

Dr. Jeff Roberts has worked in fertility services for more than 10 years, and has never heard of a situation like this in Canada, where a clinic is left with thousands of samples.

“It’s a tough spot to be in,” said Roberts, co-director of the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine, B.C.’s largest fertility clinic.

Roberts said his practice, like other private fertility clinics in B.C., received a number of new clients and samples in the wake of the public facility’s closure.

“The challenge in our field is what to do with samples in certain situations, because of course, you don’t want to be seen as destroying life, especially embryos,” Roberts said. “The worst fear, of course, within our field is that sample identity gets mixed up, or a sample gets destroyed. It’s our worst nightmare.”