Head of Israeli IV Unit Arrested in Romania

Prof. Raphael Ron-El of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center arrested along with another Israeli in raid of medical practice with suspected involvement in extracting eggs from local women and illegally selling them.

Dan Even
Dan Even
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Dan Even
Dan Even

The director of the in vitro fertilization unit at Assaf Harofeh Hospital was arrested in Romania Tuesday on suspicion of trading in human eggs.

Romanian police raided a private practice called Med New Life in Bucharest Tuesday on suspicion that it was involved in extracting eggs from local women and illegally selling them to patients needing an egg transplant.

The Israeli consulate in Romania reported to Prof. Raphael Ron-Elmanagement Tuesday that two Israelis were arrested in the raid Prof. Raphael Ron-El, head of the hospital’s in vitro fertilization unit, and the lab technician accompanying him, Daphna Komarovsky.

Assaf Harofeh, located at the Tzrifin army base, issued a statement that “at this stage we have no details regarding the suspicions about those arrested.”

Romanian police also reportedly arrested a number of Romanian suspects and questioned 30 people on site about the clinic’s activities.

Foreign press reports claim the clinic illegally sold harvested ova from Romania to Israeli women. Police reportedly raided the homes of six Romanian employees of the clinic.

Romanian police announced that they believed the ova were harvested from women aged 18-30, some students, for amounts between 600 and 800 euros. The ova were then allegedly sold illegally to women abroad, some of them Israelis, for 3,000 to 4,000 euros.

According to Assaf Harofeh, Ron-El has been involved in IV treatments in Bucharest for 15 years and holds a license and a work permit from Romanian authorities.

“During all the years, Prof. Ron-El operated according to Israeli and Romanian law, and we are convinced that this time as well there is nothing exceptional in his behavior or that of Ms. Komarovsky. Prof. Ron-El’s work was done on a mission by the hospital according to signed agreements between the hospital, the researchers fund and the clinic in Romania. The hospital stands behind Prof. Ron-El and Ms. Komarovsky, and will do all it can to disperse the cloud of suspicion and for them to return as soon as possible.”

The Health Ministry stressed that Ron-El had a license to work with clinics in Romania, though he was forbidden from importing ova or fetuses from Romania to Israel for patient needs.

“It is not clear whether he did this,” the Health Ministry stated. “The license was given to Ron-El for activity in Romania under local law.”

The Health Ministry recognizes only three clinics abroad for IV fertilization of Israeli women. Two are located in Kiev, Ukraine, and one in Brno, Czech Republic.

This is not the first affair involving Israelis in the allegedly illegal purchase of ova in Romania. In a July 2009 raid on the Sabyc fertility clinic, police arrested, among others, Dr. Nathan Levitt, a senior doctor in the IV fertilization unit at the Bnei Zion hospital in Haifa, and Dr. Genya Ziskind, director of the IV fertilization unit at Bnei Zion and a world-renowned researcher in the field. Both were suspected of illegally trading ova.

The two, who were released from arrest, had their passports confiscated and were not permitted to leave Romania for four months, until diplomatic pressure and an organized effort led to their return to Israel.

A Romanian court sentenced Levitt, Ziskind and two other Israelis in absentia to five years in prison.

Doctors at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot are fighting to save the life of a seven-month-old suffering from a rare case of botulinum toxin poisoning. (Illustrative photo)Credit: Getty Images

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