OBSERVER - February 10th 2005
The unthinkable is going on before our very eyes: Romanian children are not available for export any longer but embryos are. Despicable physicians took advantage of the poverty and ignorance in our country and jumped on the opportunity to develop here a profitable industry trading in human embryos.
by VALENTIN ZASCHIEVICI
BBC News reported on the unethical behavior of Israeli doctors who made their operational base in Bucharest, with the Global Art Company where in fact ovules are harvested from Romanian women to be fertilized with the sperm of men abroad, and then be implanted into their partners uterus in order for the couple to have babies.
These are people who pay a lot of money for having these children.
Jurnalul National daily uncovered that the profits from this business cannot be traced, since they are sent to the fiscal paradise in the Virgin Islands. An investigative team from the Ministry of Health did not manage to enter the company""s premises; the Prosecutor""s Office also opened an investigation.
But what is actually going on behind the closed doors of Global Art in Olympus Street?
Horrible things go on, as one insider whose name we will not disclose told us.
The customers of this clinic arrive from countries where artificial insemination is not allowed after a certain age. For instance Great Britain set the legal age limit for artificial insemination at 42. A few specialized committees from Great Britain visited our clinic last year, and so did a team of journalists from BBC.
Then, the owner of the business, Yaacov Hof, ordered all personnel to exit the building and asked the security personnel to guard it. We did not understand at the time why so many precautions.
Only later we figured it out: he was afraid of a scandal. It seems that some of the British experts sensed something was amiss and made that public.
Both the Israeli owner and the Romanian manager, Ioana Ghionescu, had all the reasons why to be afraid for their own skin.
In our clinic come poor women, some accompanied by their husbands, for their ovules to be harvested. They do it for dire need of money.
They are either crazy or completely unaware about the dangers they are subjected to And no one in the clinic makes them aware of what those dangers are.
Normally, a woman produces one ovule per month. But these women have to undergo a hormonal treatment in order to release 10 to 20 ovules.
This treatment alone may be hazardous to the woman""s health.
Some medical studies do not recommend the procedure because of the risks for cancer.
The actual harvesting is even more risky.
The patient""s ovary is punctured 20 times in order to harvest each of the 20 ovules.
Imagine what it means for the ovary to be punctured 20 times.
The young women who are tempted by the 200 dollars reward should know the dangers and future suffering they put themselves into.
Two days after the harvesting procedure, some of them develop liquid in their peritoneum.
Others develop acute abdomen.
Some of the donors were hospitalized at the Municipal Hospital, at the Emergency Hospital and at Polizu.
I know of some young women who after the extraction lost an ovary.
Their ovary was infected and it had to be removed.
I remember the case
of one donor, whose husband menaced that it will go to the Forensic Institute and sue the clinic.
I do not know how that story ended, but the donor, his wife, signed as part of the contract an agreement to not sue the clinic after the harvesting procedure.
After the harvesting procedure the donors have to undergo further treatment with ketonal and contraceptives.
The most appalling thing is that poverty makes donors come back three to five times, till it is ascertained that their capacity to produce ovules had significantly reduced. Then they are notified that they are unfit for donating ovules any longer.
The insider from Global Art also refers to the financial dealings of the company.
A couple from Romania pays 300 dollars for fertilization. Other donors are sent to Bucharest by gynecologists in the country, who get a 300 dollars commission for that.
It is worth asking ourselves where are these money going to, since the Ministry of Finance reported that the clinic reported being in the red.
The answer is very simple: the earnings go to Paradise, that is to the fiscal paradise in the Virgin Islands.
According to the insider""s statement, the physician conducting the harvesting is Dr. Mary Louciene Ioana Ghionescu. She is also one of the administrators of both Global Art and its sister company, Global Metrom.
Well, according to the Physicians Council, Ioana Ghionescu is a generalist, an MD, and has no qualification as a gynecologist.
This is a blatant case of malpraxis, and quite likely the deeds of Ghionescu qualify as criminal acts under the law.
On her business card, Ghionescu wrote that she was a reproductive medicine specialist.
But she was unavailable for comment when we tried to get one.
It seems that at the root of the international scandal which now shrouds the clinic stayed a conflict among the Israeli doctors last year.
The founder of the clinic, Dr. Bar came to Bucharest once a month to implant the embryos in the barren women. Only that he made it a habit to also take some ovules back to Israel. Last fall owner Hof Yaacov got him caught in the act: he asked a security person to conduct a search on Bar when he was leaving the clinic, and discovered that he had ovules stashed in a refrigerating recipient.
A big raw ensued, and Bar did not come again to the clinic. But it seems that Bar had filmed some images in the clinic prior to him being ousted, and it seems that he gave this film to the British journalists.
Jurnalul National asks the young women who suffered as a result of the medical procedures they have been subjected at at Global Art to contact our editorial office by phone, email or in person.
According to information on the web-site, Global Art is part of the International Fertility Medical Center, which is a worldwide network originating in Israel. In this network Romania is at the providing end of the production line.
Translation : ANCA PADURARU