Israeli Doctors Held in Bucharest Over Alleged Illegal Egg Donor Clinic

A court in Romania has ordered the detention for another 29 days of two Israeli physicians, Harry Mironescu and his son Yair Miron, who were arrested in connection with allegations that the Sabyc fertility clinic which they own in the Romanian capital made payments to human egg donors, a practice which is illegal there.

The two were arrested yesterday, along with another suspect, Cecilia Borzeש, after prosecutors opened a criminal case yesterday into the matter. Due to a change in Romanian law about three years ago, it is illegal for a woman to receive payment in return for egg donations, although voluntary egg donations not involving compensation remain legal in the country.

The Israeli ambassador to Romania, Oren David, told Haaretz yesterday that embassy representatives had met with two other Israeli physicians suspected of involvement in illegal activity at the Sabyc clinic, Genia Ziskind and Natan Levit.

The two were detained but not jailed and an order has been issued barring them from leaving Romania, the ambassador said. The two reportedly worked at the Sabyc clinic and are accused of involvement in the affair. The ambassador noted that the Israeli owners of the clinic also have Romanian citizenship.

Romanian officials have briefed the embassy about the case and the Israeli consul in Bucharest is expected to meet with the two in the near future.

Romanian authorities reportedly have also investigated the involvement of the secretary at the clinic as well as others allegedly involved in soliciting egg donations.

Another group of about 30 Israelis, some of whom worked at the clinic and others who were receiving fertility treatments there, were detained for several hours, but were later released and have left the country.

Some of the Israeli patients at the clinic indicated that they had understood that the clinic had operated in accordance with the law. They expressed surprise at the arrests and some complained of humiliating treatment on the part of local police.

The Sabyc clinic has been operating in Romania since 1999 and has reportedly performed more than 2,000 fertility procedures. The clinic's patients, who were mostly from Germany and Israel, reportedly paid sums of 10,000 to 15,000 euros for the treatments.

The case became public Sunday when prosecutors entered the clinic and confiscated documents, computers and over 130,000 euros in cash. More than 60 people have been questioned by law enforcement officials in the matter. The women who allegedly received payment for egg donations reportedly included university students and women from the Roma community, commonly known as Gypsies.

The Romanian Medical Council has also opened an investigation into the matter. The head of the council said that the services provided at the Sabyc clinic were not legal. The Israeli Health Ministry maintains a registry of approved fertility clinics abroad and the Sabyc clinic does not appear on the list, according to Yoram Lotan of the ministry, although another source at the Health Ministry said the clinic may have had such approval in the past.

The ministry is also awaiting further developments before deciding how to proceed in the cases of Levit, who is a physician in the in-vitro fertilization unit at Bnei Zion Medical Center in Haifa and against Ziskind, who is the laboratory director of the unit.

In reaction to the case, Bnei Zion Medical Center said the hospital "is not connected to the case, which involves a private clinic in Romania which hires the services of doctors from various hospitals in Israel."

The hospital described Levit and Ziskind respectively as "a doctor who works part-time at the hospital and a biologist," and added "their absence is not affecting continued operation of our in-vitro fertilization unit."