A MAN who claims he lost the chance to father his own child after his sperm samples were damaged in a faulty freezer at the Western General Hospital is suing for £50,000 in damages in a test case which could lead to a flood of claims.
Richard Holdich had stored samples at the city hospital in 1992 before he underwent chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer which would leave him infertile.
The 43-year-old and his wife later decided to start fertility treatment, but he was told that there had been a failure in the freezer storing them.
Mr Holdich is now suing Lothian Health Board at the Court of Session in Edinburgh for compensation.
The legal bid is a test case as 20 other men have raised actions against the health authority after their samples were also stored in the freezer.
The health board is contesting the action and maintains that the samples remained viable and could have been used for IVF treatment.
David Stephenson QC, for the health board, told a court hearing yesterday that the other legal actions lay “in abeyance” while the present action was heard.
Lawyers for Mr Holdich, of Cherry Burton, Beverley, in East Yorkshire, contend that he was told his treatment for teratoma testicular cancer would leave him infertile. He said he was advised to store sperm samples to preserve his chance of fathering a child.
The action states: “The pursuer [Mr Holdich] placed his sperm samples into the care of the defenders in order that they could be preserved under specialist conditions in which their viability could be maintained. The knowledge that his samples were safely stored was a comfort to him during his cancer treatment.”
Mr Holdich and his wife later asked for the frozen sperm to be transferred to a fertility service in England. But he said he received a letter in 2001 stating that a failure had occurred in the freezer containing the samples earlier that year. As a result the sperm was not kept at a correct temperature to guaranteed its viability.
His lawyers maintain that before the failure, staff had expressed concerns with the operation of the freezer and alarm systems.
They claimed it is likely that the change in temperature caused damage to the DNA of surviving cells which effects the ability to form a viable embryo.
Mr Holdich said that in 2002 he received a letter after an expert was brought in which said the advice was that the samples should not be used.
The health authority said two sperm samples from the freezer which have been used in fertility treatment have resulted in the birth of healthy children.
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