Two leading Israeli fertility experts were under house arrest Thursday amid police investigations into a bizarre trade in human eggs, extracted from unsuspecting patients and sold to scores of other women.
Aryeh Edelman, the Tel Aviv police officer heading the investigation, said the doctors would routinely remove extra eggs from the ovaries of patients undergoing fertility treatment and use them to offer treatment to other women.
"It was like a factory," he said.
It is uncertain how many women were treated by the doctors _ or indeed how many children were born of the ova extracted from the unwitting donors over a four-year period. Edelman confirmed that all of the ova were transferred to women in Israel.
Some of the donors had no idea that the doctors were harvesting extra eggs; others were offered discounts of up to $2,500 on their fertility treatment in return for the donations, Edelman said.
Israeli law bars women from donating ova unless they are undergoing fertility treatment and there is a severe shortage of human eggs at clinics.
All the donors interviewed by police were undergoing fertility treatment and collecting eggs for in vitro fertilization or other means of medically assisted pregnancy.
The gynecologists, Zion Ben-Rafael and Ya'akov Ashkenazi, could face charges of fraud, breach of trust and endangering the health of their patients.