Inquiry into incubator failure excludes technical fault

Health minister Chris Fearne said the incubator was placed on standby mode for almost 24 hours as a result of human error

Health minister Chris Fearne
Health minister Chris Fearne

An inquiry into an incident, which resulted in an incubator used to store embryos being placed on standby mode for almost 24-hours, was likely caused by human error rather than a technical fault, deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne told parliament yesterday.

On the 27 January 2017 a senior embryologist working at Mater Dei’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Unit (ART) found that one of the incubators was on standby mode.

The embryos were transferred to another incubator and were later found to still be viable.

In his ministerial statement, Fearne said that he inquiry, led by judge emeritus Alberto Magri, was asked to establish a number of facts, including who could have had access to the incubator, whether a technical fault was responsible, as well as whether there were any inherent flaws in the system used that could have led to such an incident.

Fearne said that that over the span of 35 hours, the inquiry had heard testimony from 26 witnesses, and had collected a number of documents and reports on the ART’s operations.

He said that the inquiry had excluded that the a power cut, or technical fault, could have led to the incubator being placed on standby, leaving human error as the most likely cause.

On the basis of the inquiry’s findings, Fearne said an Access Control System had now been installed in the laboratory, as well as a CCTV system. Moreover, he said discussions had been held with the manufacturers for the development of an alarm system for the incubator.

Finally, he said a medical team from Mater Dei had met with all the couples involved, and that they had been offered compensation for treatment-related expenses as well as another IVF cycle.

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