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Fertility Fraud in California

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It has been discovered that fertility doctors at the University of California in Irvine stole eggs or embryos for years and gave them to other women. The two doctors involved at the university's Center for Reproductive fled the country in order to avoid persecution.

All of this fraud occurred about 15 years ago, and the UC Board of Regents has settled about 12 lawsuits resulting from this scandal. This story emerged in 1995 when the Orange County Register reported that fertility doctors, who incidentally were world-renowned according to the Los Angeles Times, had stolen eggs or embryos and then given them to other women. The Times reported that, "The revelation sparked international news coverage, investigations and state hearings and tainted the university, which whistle-blowers said had ignored early warnings and tried to cover up problems." Officials at the university said it is honoring its commitment to treat each claim fairly, and will not make any comment on the matter until the remaining claims are resolved.

In the meantime there are some pretty devastated couples in the wake of this scandal. In the 1980s Shirel and Steve Crawford believed that their embryos were given to a woman referred to as "Mrs. S," who gave birth to a girl and a boy, in two separate pregnancies. Shirel Crawford, who found herself out of money and embryos, never had a baby. She said, "I don't think it will ever be over. Our children are still out there somewhere. Maybe someday they will find us."

The case of the Crawfords' was one of 12 that was settled in recent months for a grand sum of $4.23 million. The Crawfords received $675,000. The University of California has paid more than $24 for 137 separate incidents in which embryos or eggs were stolen and given to other women, or were unaccounted for. Three of those cases are pending.

Ricardo Asch and Jose Balmaceda are the two main doctors involved in this scandal. They fled the country, and thus have not been criminally prosecuted. The university has been left to handle all the civil lawsuits, in the wake of their unscrupulous and illegal activities.

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