Fentanyl in a vial, pain medication
Fentanyl in a vial. Credit: Sonis Photography / Shutterstock

Seven women have sued the Yale University Medical School, claiming they suffered through harrowing surgical procedures without anesthesia because the school failed to safeguard its fentanyl supply.

According to the plaintiffs, the women sought in-vitro fertilization in 2020 from the school’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) clinic. During their egg retrieval surgeries, the fentanyl they were supposed to get had been replaced with saline by a Yale nurse, Donna Monticone, who was struggling with addiction.

Monticone later pleaded guilty for her actions, but attorneys for the seven women say Yale has yet to explain how the fentanyl could have been replaced with saline.

According to the complaint, Yale had bulk-ordered fentanyl vials used for pain management during oocyte egg retrieval surgeries, among other procedures. In doing so, “Yale allegedly sidestepped critical, mandated pharmacy supervision that left vials vulnerable to tampering, violating state and federal laws by keeping more than 175 vials of fentanyl in an unsupervised and unlocked area.” The plaintiffs also say Yale failed to implement system-wide safeguards, including a drug-testing program to ensure those with the greatest access to opioids were not abusing them.

“This is the first in a series of cases that we will be filing on behalf of similarly affected fertility patients of Yale. These women put their trust in Yale to provide the safety, security, and comfort that ought to be the hallmark of fertility treatment, only to have that trust betrayed,” said Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder, the law firm handling the case. “The scope of Yale’s systemic failure to secure fentanyl in the middle of a fentanyl epidemic is hard to fathom. The fact that this conduct likely affected hundreds of women and went undetected for what was admitted to be five months, but which appears to have actually been several years, is staggering.”

The complaint details the excruciating pain the women experienced at the facility. Allegations included medical assault and battery, medical malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, failure to obtain informed consent, and breach of contract.

The seven women are just a few of potentially hundreds of patients who were unknowingly treated with saline for similar procedures until approximately November 2020.

The Yale University Medical School declined to comment.