Two Israeli doctors and one Romanian are being detained by a special Romanian investigative police unit after raids on a Romanian IVF clinic suspected to be involved in international human egg and stem-cell trafficking. The Romanian department for fighting organized crime (DIICOT) announced in a statement that 'the group was focusing on identifying foreign couples eager to resort to assisted reproduction techniques and on grabbing Romanian (women) aged 18-30 to donate ova for 800 to 1,000 lei' (around £165 to £205).
The Sabyc Clinic in Bucharest, run by Israeli gynaecologist Harry Mironescu, has performed more than 1,200 IVF cycles over the last ten years. However at no point has it been licensed to provide such procedures and DIICOT stated that all were thus carried out illegally. The recipients of the majority of these cycles were Israeli, British and Italian women.
At the time of the raid around thirty people were arrested at the clinic (with the majority of them reported to have been Israelis). Of these, two Israelis – Professor Nathan Levitt and Dr. Genya Ziskind – and three Romanians have been put under house arrest on charges of human egg-trafficking, involvement in a criminal group, and practicing medicine without a permit. The two Israelis have been warned not to attempt to leave the country. The owners of the fertility and cosmetic surgery clinic, father-son pair Harry and Yair Miron, are also being held by the Romanian authorities.
In Israel legislation that would have relaxed rules on egg donation to allow those not undergoing IVF to donate eggs, though not in exchange for payment, has been put on hold. Israel has strict rules on egg donation and though IVF cycles are provided without additional charge as part of the national health benefits (helping Israel have the highest availability of IVF in the world), the eggs used in these procedures must be purchased individually.
Last month a study into cross-border fertility treatment in Europe showed that every year, thousands of women from Britain are travelling abroad to access treatment which is unavailable to them at home. The study, presented at the annual conference of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), estimated that 20,000 to 25,000 cross-border treatment cycles take place per year.