A controversial Italian fertility doctor has been arrested after being accused of taking a woman's eggs without her consent.
Seventy-year-old Dr Severino Antinori, who attracted media attention in the 1990s for helping a woman give birth at 63, denies the claims. He told the AGI news agency: 'I have pains in my chest, I could have had a heart attack, I am very ill because of this unjustified arrest. Do they want me dead? I am an honest man. I've never robbed eggs from anyone and while all this is going on the embryos that have been sequestrated are dying.'
The allegations were made by a 24-year-old Spanish woman who had recently started work at Dr Antinori's Matris clinic in Milan. Speaking to Italian investigators, the woman said she had been due to undergo a procedure to remove an ovarian cyst but that before the treatment began, her mobile was taken and she was forcefully restrained, anaesthetised and then operated on - with her eggs harvested against her consent.
Following the surgery, the woman filed a complaint and Dr Antinori was arrested at Fiumicino airport in Rome soon after. He is now under house arrest, suspended from practicing for one year, and faces charges of aggravated robbery and personal injury.
According to The Guardian, Dr Antinori's lawyer said that his client was being extorted and that the alleged victim was 'conscious of the choice she was making', adding that she had signed consent forms for the procedure.
In 1994, Dr Antinori became well known for helping Rosanna Della Corte to conceive at the age of 63 through IVF treatment using donor eggs (2). Thereafter, in 2006, he also helped a British woman, Patricia Rashbrook, give birth to a son at the age of 62 (see BioNews 366).
The controversial fertility specialist is also known for supporting the use of human reproductive cloning. In 2002, Dr Antinori claimed that three women had given birth to babies following the implantation of embryos created using CNR, a practice that is banned in most countries including Italy (see BioNews 257). His claims have been widely met with scepticism.
Italy has some of the most restrictive rules on assisted conception in Europe, with IVF using donated eggs and sperm only made available in limited circumstances after a court ruling in 2014 (see BioNews 750).
Donata Lenzi, a member of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Democratic party, commented: 'The arrest of Severino Antinori is extremely serious because it indicates the existence of a market in eggs that will not stop at anything.'