Inside the opaque world of IVF, where errors are rarely made public

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person in lab coat looks into a microscope next to large image of egg and sperm

It was one of the worst accidents in the history of reproductive medicine.

A storage tank at a San Francisco fertility center imploded, its trove of 4,000 human eggs and embryos damaged or destroyed. A jury later found that a manufacturing defect was largely to blame for the disaster but also implicated the center. The lab director had unplugged a malfunctioning computer, muting 128 alarms that warned of trouble. Lab personnel did not transfer the contents of the vessel to a backup tank when the computer failed. And there is no evidence that repairs were initiated for the 13 days between these first problems and the implosion.

The missteps were revealed only because a lawsuit and 2021 civil trial offered a rare glimpse inside the closed world of U.S. fertility care. Most of the time, experts say, errors and accidents go unreported in the burgeoning fertility industry, which is largely self-policed. It is not mandated to report errant episodes to the government, the public, any professional organization or even patients — despite a code of ethics that...

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