During a raid Tuesday on a fertility clinic in Bucharest, Romania, two Israelis – a doctor, and a laboratory technician who were allegedly involved in the sale of local women’s eggs to Israeli couples – were arrested.
In addition, some 30 people – both Romanian and Israeli – were questioned. It is believed there was cooperation between representatives of private clinics in Bucharest, and fertility experts from Israel, breaking the country’s organ transplantation law.
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Arrested were Professor Raphael Ron-El, who runs the In Vitro Fertilization Clinic at Israel's Assaf Harofeh Medical Center; and Dafna Komarovsky, a laboratory technician who worked with him.
The medical center released a statement saying Professor Ron-El "has been working with this Bucharest clinic for 15 years, backed by the approval of the Israeli Health Ministry and with a Romanian work license. Throughout this period, his actions followed Israeli and Romanian law.
"We are convinced that nothing out of line will be found in the activities of Professor Ron-El, or Ms. Komarovsky," the hospital said.
Local police searched the clinic, suspecting that Israeli experts were making substantial earnings from the illegal business run at the location. Romanian police said that the clinic recruited women and girls who agreed to allow their eggs to be removed and used in fertility treatments.
In addition to searching the clinic, local authorities searched the homes of six people under investigation. According to the authorities, experts in the clinic removed the eggs of Romanian women between the ages of 18 – 30, some students, paying them between 600 – 800 euros ($800-1,066).
Fertility clinic in Bucharest (Photo: AFP)
Most of the people who benefited from the service were Israeli women who visited Romania for artificial insemination, and the suspects made "considerable financial gains" through this illegal human egg trafficking, police said in a statement. According to police, they sold the eggs for a price of 3,000 – 4,000 euros ($4,000-5,330).
This is not the first time that Israeli doctors were accused of involvment in egg trafficking in Romania. The egg donation industry in Israel is primarily based on the contributions of clinics from outside the country.
Israeli law does not allow women to donate or sell eggs, thus the process thus takes place in private clinics in Romania, Ukraine, Cyprus, Spain and in fertility clinics throughout Europe.
Among those arrested were clinic managers doctors Harry and Yair Miron, as well as Dr. Nathan Levitt and Dr. Genya Ziskind. Although some of those arrested have already returned to Israel, last November, a Romanian court sentenced the four doctors in absentia to five years in prison.
The doctors have appealed the sentence. Among those questioned in this case were also Israeli donors, who were suspected of being aware their eggs were being sold. The manager of Romania's national agency for transplantations said then that the same clinic was involved in a similar case in 2002.
AP contributed to this report
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