UCI: Seeks Repayment for Fertility Lawsuits
In yet another round of bad publicity for the University of California-Irvine, three former UCI fertility doctors have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the school in Orange County Superior Court Wednesday, seeking repayments for lawsuits that arose after a 1995 fertility clinic scandal. The Orange County Register reports that Drs. Ricardo Asch, Sergio Stone and Jose Balmaceda -- accused in 1995 of stealing women's eggs and, without their consent, transplanting them into other patients at UCI's Center for Reproductive Health -- cost the school over $19 million in legal settlements for 100 lawsuits filed after the allegations were made public. University officials contend that the doctors have refused to provide important medical and laboratory records in an effort to "hamper" the investigation. Two of the doctors, Asch and Balmaceda, have left the country, while Stone resides in Villa Park (9/24).
The Los Angeles Times reports that UC Irvine has been "shaken" by a series of scandals in the last four years, causing some outside medical experts to call for a review of the school's "research practices and procedures." Aside from the fertility scandal, the school has faced charges that some cancer researchers improperly charged patients for experimental treatments, and that a professor used patients' blood for research without permission. Recently, a worker at the Willed Body Program has been charged with selling cadaver body parts. Although UCI officials indicate that they "adopted stricter oversight" to prevent future problems, some experts believe that the school's regulatory and ethical guidelines must be investigated. Stephen Wear, director of the center for clinical ethics at the University of Buffalo, said, "This may just be bad luck or whatever, but there's enough to indicate there may be something more going on." A 1996 audit of five UCI medical school departments found that research oversight was "a major problem" at the school. Although the school was able to attract top-notch researchers due to a "cushion of independence" policy, the audit said that research autonomy came "at the expense of sound management controls and internal control procedures" (Willon, 9/24).