Seven women are suing Yale over their in vitro fertilization procedures at the Yale University Reproductive, Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic, alleging that they suffered excruciating pain after a nurse stole fentanyl for personal use, replacing it with saline.

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a procedure by which women who are infertile are able to conceive children. While undergoing IVF at the Yale REI Clinic in 2020, the women were administered saline in place of fentanyl, after a nurse working at the clinic stole the synthetic opioid for her personal use. The ongoing lawsuit alleges that the University fertility clinic failed to protect the supply of fentanyl and safeguard its use for the correct purposes, according to the press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.

“The lawsuit filed Wednesday says the women were supposed to receive fentanyl after painful procedures for in vitro fertilization at a Yale clinic in Orange, Connecticut, last year,” read an article by the Associated Press on the matter. “But instead, the lawsuit says, they received saline and suffered through terrible pain, and they blame Yale for failing to safeguard its fentanyl supply.”

According to the suit, after the false administration of saline during the procedure, the women notified the staff of the abnormal levels of pain, but their complaints were not regarded. Due to this, the lawsuit is seeking undisclosed damages. 

Targeting Yale’s failure to abide by pharmacy protocols, the lawsuit is chiefly filed against Yale for  allowing its fentanyl supply to be tampered with and stolen. According to the lawsuit, more than 175 vials of fentanyl were stored unsupervised and unprotected at the clinic. An inability to safeguard fentanyl supplies, as well as the failure to drug-test staff handling opioids, is a violation of state and federal public health laws.

Furthermore, due to the malpractice of the nurse — who no longer works for the clinic — the lawsuit is alleging medical assault and battery, which are both civil allegations. It states that hundreds of patients could have been administered saline instead of fentanyl and that over 75 percent of the treatments involving fentanyl from June 2020 to October 2020 could have been replaced with saline.

In May 2021, the nurse was sentenced to four weekends in prison, along with three months of home confinement and three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to one count of tampering with consumer products.

In March, University spokesperson Karen Peart announced that “Yale has informed patients that there is no reason to believe that the nurse’s action harmed their health or the outcome of their treatment. The University reported the nurse’s actions to law enforcement agencies, and the Fertility Center conducted an immediate review of its management of controlled substances. Changes are underway in procedures, recordkeeping, and physical storage that will prevent this type of activity from happening again.” 

The University declined to provide further comment on the matter. 

The Yale Fertility Center is located at 200 West Campus Dr. in Orange, CT. 

Manas Sharma covers the Yale School of Medicine for the SciTech Desk of the News. Manas is originally from McComb, MS, and is a sophomore in Branford majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.