Monday 20 September 2010

Cyprus clinic at centre of human egg trafficking probe

Police are waiting for the green light from Ukrainian authorities in order to begin an investigation into claims of human eggs trafficking at a fertility clinic near the village of Zygi.
The clinic was run by a staff comprised mostly by Russians, with donors being mainly women from Eastern Europe.
Suspicion of illegal trade in human eggs came about after the testimonies of three Ukrainian women in their thirties, all of whom were working in Cyprus legally. According to police, these women sold their eggs illegally - in violation of Cypriot and European law which says that donors should only have their expenses covered.
Officially, the clinic is under investigation for failing to provide full data for the tracing of embryos and gametes. According to a police spokesperson, the clinic closed in May this year after an edict from the health ministry.
Health Ministry Inspector Pampos Charilaou said the clinic was forced to close as it failed to present an archive listing the origins of ovules, who owned them and the conditions under which they were kept.
“Without traceability of the ovules and sperm, I could not, as an inspector, give permission to this clinic to continue with the procedures they were implementing. You have to understand that we need that sort of detail in order to safeguard the safety and health of the recipients,” Charilaou said.
After the clinic closed, all of its biological material was transferred to the Health Ministry where it is now stored. “Although the law allows us to destroy the tissues and cells we have acquired from the clinic, we are storing them in good condition, but we don’t know where they come from, nor who owns them,” said Charilaou.
He also added that the Ministry’s Inspectors were only responsible for monitoring the traceability of ovules and gametes, and that issues regarding egg trafficking were a police concern.
A group of Italian patients of the clinic are demanding their embryos back so that they can continue with the fertilisation process in their own country. “I promised to my eight Cypriot embryos that have been confiscated that I will fight to the end,” said Maria, an Italian who came to Cyprus for treatment, speaking to French news agency AFP. She would not give her real name because of the investigation still in process, while she also condemned the Cypriot authorities for their “lack of control” in the case.
According to AFP, shortly after the clinic closed, the Italian and Israeli embassies – whose nationals made up many of the clinic’s patients – were flooded with calls from distressed couples who were worried about their embryos.
Many couples are working around restrictive laws on fertility treatment in their own countries by coming to Cyprus, a favoured destination for ‘fertility tourism’. Swift processes, lower prices and the anonymity of the gamete donors all help to attract patients to the island.