Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Corboy & Demetrio And The Grand Gesture

There are two biological imperatives that drive us. We act to preserve self, and then we preserve the species.

Men facing infertility for any reason, whether it is a genetic malady or cancer treatment, can now preserve their sperm so that they can do their part in preserving the species. Faced with illness or disability that threatens the second biological imperative, they are utterly dependent on modern technology to salvage their chance to have children.

A cryogenic tank filled with sperm samples broke down recently at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. What safeguards and safety checks were in place all failed, and the frozen sperm defrosted. Because that piece of equipment broke down, as many as 250 men who thought they were cheating infertility will not be able to reproduce as planned.

For those who dreamed of having children, those dreams are gone. The samples, once thawed, would deteriorate rapidly. The frozen sperm were living things, held in suspended animation through the wonders of cryogenics. After the equipment failure, the sperm cells began to die rapidly and once dead they are useless.

As you would expect, anger followed the notification to the patients whose sperm was in the freezer. At least forty men were so upset that they filed a lawsuit against the hospital, to make them pay for the heartache and inexpressible grief that must have felt like a death in the family.

Corboy & Demetrio is perhaps the largest personal injury law firm in Chicago, if not the world, and they will be representing those forty plaintiffs.

The lawsuit is, in large part, a grand gesture of outrage over something that cannot possibly be made whole with all the money in the world.

The law firm will win a huge settlement, of course, because what jury or judge would not have the deepest sympathy for the plaintiffs? Families were counting on Northwestern Memorial to do what they said they would do, which is to preserve and protect the ability to procreate for those who would otherwise be childless. The safety measures the hospital put in place were not enough to ensure that the promise was kept, and if the only thing that can be given is money, then money will be given.

But in the end, the men whose sperm samples were killed know that they cannot restore what was lost. Ultimately, the cash settlement will not change the fact that they cannot contribute their genes to the human race. They cannot be part of the biological imperative that drives us to have children whose faces remind us of ourselves.

Northwestern Memorial must be punished for their failure, but the punishment will do absolutely nothing to fix that which was broken due to the hospital's negligence.

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