The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

IVF incubator incident likely caused by human error, health minister says

Monday, 16 April 2018, 21:09 Last update: about 12 months ago

An incident where an IVF incubator with nine embryos inside was left on stand-by mode was down to human error, Health Minister Chris Fearne told Parliament this evening.

The incident happened in January 2017. The embryos did not result in pregnancies.

The couples involved were given another cycle of IVF and three cases resulted in pregnancies. The couples were also reimbursed for the costs incurred in the first cycle.


During a ministerial statement this evening, Fearne said that steps were taken in accordance with the recommendations made by a board of inquiry to prevent similar cases from happening in future.

The inquiry established that the device is still in good working condition. The inquiry concluded that the incubator being left on stand-by mode had nothing to do the electricity supply at Mater Dei hospital. The board also found no evidence that any person had purposely affected the use of the IVF incubator.

The recommendations included the installation of CCTV cameras, system alarms and easier access to the laboratory incubator. Fearne said that a camera has already been placed in the area, and more access has been opened, as recommended.

He added that in recent months, five embryos were frozen under existing legislation and that two of them were implanted into patients while three are still frozen.

Opposition spokesman on health Stephen Spiteri expressed sympathy with the couples involved. He empahsised that technology can go wrong and urged everyone to protect embryos, adding that there can always be repercussions when the man plays around with nature.

He said that what happened in the incubator may have hindered the development of the embryo.

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