Doctor Indicted for Harvesting Women's Eggs Without Consent

Professor Zion Ben-Raphael, the gynecologist suspected of illegally harvesting human eggs from fertility patients and selling them to other women, was indicted yesterday in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on six counts of fraud and for obstruction of justice.

Ben-Raphael, 56, former head of the gynecology department at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, also worked privately at the Herzliya Medical Center, where he is suspected of culling the eggs from six patients without their knowledge or consent, or misleading them in order to obtain their consent.

The obstruction of justice charge stems from a payment of $20,000 made by the gynecologist to a man who presented himself as a police official and said he could get the case against the doctor dropped.

Four of the plaintiffs reached a confidential out-of-court settlement four months ago in a civil suit against Ben-Raphael and the Herzliya Medical Center for NIS 1.5 million in compensation.

The indictment stated that hormones injected to stimulate egg production can sometimes cause complications due to overstimulation of the ovaries, including heart and kidney failure, and possibly death. Some of the six plaintiffs, the indictment said, suffered from these symptoms even before Ben-Raphael treated them. The indictment also noted that Ben-Raphael received payment from both the egg donors and the recipients.

The prosecution argues that Ben-Raphael harvested the eggs fraudulently in a number of cases, and took advantage of the faith the plaintiffs had in his skills and reputation. The prosecution also noted that the accused completely ignored the ramifications of the treatments for both the donors and the recipients, who allegedly did not know the eggs were obtained fraudulently.

Regarding the first count of fraud, the gynecologist is charged with using illegal means to persuade one plaintiff to sign an egg donation consent form, and harvesting a larger number of eggs than she had consented to. The charge sheet states that 232 eggs were harvested from the plaintiff, and 155 were implanted in 34 women.

On the second count, the accused is said to have illegally harvested 44 eggs, 10 of which he implanted in the donor after she confronted him. He allegedly implanted the remainder in seven other patients for financial gain.

On the third count, Ben-Rapahel is said to have culled 53 eggs, 30 of which he took illegally to implant in six patients for financial gain. According to the indictment, when the patient asked him how many eggs he had taken, he lied and told her 23.

According to the fourth count, Ben-Raphael harvested 258 eggs during three treatments of one patient, and sold 181 of them to 34 recipients. The fifth count charges the accused with culling 40 eggs, out of which he took 27 to implant in six recipients, taking advantage of the fact that the donor did not know how many eggs had actually been harvested.

The sixth count involves the accused's deal with a plaintiff that she agree to donate eggs in exchange for a discount in her fertility treatments. Ben-Raphael allegedly culled 78 eggs from the plaintiff, and took 60 for 12 other patients, while telling her that only 31 eggs had been harvested.