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Ricardo Hector Asch (born 26 October 1947) is an obstetrician, gynecologist, endocrinologist, and fugitive. He worked with reproductive technology and pioneered gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). In the mid-1990s, he was accused of removing ova from women without their consent for use on other patients, as well as associated financial crimes, at the University of California, Irvine's fertility clinic: The Orange County Register's investigations into these practices led to that paper's receiving the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Prior to being federally indicted, Asch fled the United States. Multiple attempts by American officials to extradite him from Latin America have failed. Asch was last reported as living in Mexico in 2011.
Education and early career
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Asch studied at the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine graduating in 1971. In 1975 he moved to the United States and worked with Robert Benjamin Greenblatt at the Medical College of Georgia before his reproductive endocrinology fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Among his many publications were his pioneering experience with GIFT and research on oocyte donation. In 1986 he joined the University of California, Irvine (UCI). In 1990 he became the Director of the Center for Reproductive Health of UCI heading the infertility program. Asch was named Assistant Dean of UCI the same year. He lectured worldwide and accrued two honorary professorships by 1994.
UC Irvine fertility scandal
In 1995, the Orange County Register broke the story that Asch—then Chief of the University of California, Irvine's Center for Reproductive Health—and his two partners were accused of taking women's eggs without their permission for use by other patients. These eggs were fertilized and the resulting embryos transferred to these other women, some of them then conceiving. At least 15 live births resulted from the alleged practice. At that time, the misappropriation of human eggs was not legally considered a crime. However, numerous civil lawsuits were filed, and UCI paid out more than $27 million to settle patient claims. Auditors from KPMG Peat Marwick investigated the clinic and found that almost $1 million with cash money allegedly had been privately pocketed.
In 2006, university officials admitted to the Los Angeles Times that they had not notified at least 20 women whose eggs were stolen by Asch and his colleagues.
Asch and colleagues Jose Balmaceda and Sergio Stone were indicted on charges of mail fraud and income tax evasion. Asch suspended his practice, sold his properties, and fled to Mexico. Balmaceda escaped to Chile, while Stone stayed in the US and was convicted of insurance fraud in 1997 and paid a fine. In January 1996, Asch testified at a deposition in Tijuana that university employees were responsible for errors that had occurred such as mismatching patients and failing to obtain patient consents.
Asch later opened a practice in Mexico and later in Argentina. He was formally fired by the university in 2000. He attained a Mexican citizenship in 2001 in addition to his native Argentine citizenship.
In 2004 Asch was arrested in Argentina, but an extradition request was denied. Asch's lawyer claims that he was tried in Argentina for fraud and acquitted.
Asch was arrested again in Mexico in November 2010. On December 30, 2010, the Mexican Attorney's General Office (PGR) announced on its website that it had initiated proceedings to have Asch extradited to the United States. However, Asch was released on bail in early 2011. Subsequently, the judge ruled that as Asch had already been tried in Argentina and acquitted, the "double jeopardy" rule applied, thus Asch was free and would not be extradited to the United States.
Awards and other activities
- Dodge, Mary; Geis, Gilbert (2003). Stealing Dreams: A Fertility Clinic Scandal. Lebanon, New Hampshire: Northeastern University Press. p. 113. ISBN 1-55553-585-2.
- Asch RH, Ellsworth LR, Balmaceda JP, Wong PC (1984). "Pregnancy after translaparoscopic gamete intrafallopian transfer". Lancet. 2 (8410): 1034–5. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(84)91127-9. PMID 6149412.
- Susan Kellerher; Kim Christensen (May 19, 1995). "Baby Born After Doctor Took Eggs Without Consent". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
- Hilary Gilson. "Ricardo Hector Asch (1947- )". The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Yoshino, Kimi (2009-09-11). "UCI settles dozens of fertility suits". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
- MARQUIS, JULIE; WEBER, TRACY; WAGNER, MICHAEL G. (1995-07-06). "Egg Misuse May Have Involved 30 More Patients, UCI Reports : Scandal: The scope of the fertility clinic's alleged improprieties is widened dramatically, touching a third hospital and including patients treated as long ago as 1988". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
- Teri Sforza (January 25, 2011). "Should UC go after fertility fraud doctor's assets?". Orange County Register. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Anderson, Nick; Schrader, Esther (July 19, 1997). "50 Couples to Get $10 million to end UCI Fertility Clinic Suits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- Yoshino, Kimi (2006-01-20). "UC Irvine Fertility Scandal Isn't Over". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
- "UC Fertility Case Doctor Sells Home" Los Angeles Times 24 October 1995. Accessed 23 October 2009
- Julie Marquis (January 20, 1996). "Fertility Doctor Denies Role in Errors". LA Times. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
- Associated Press (July 22, 2000). "University Fires Professor In Embryo-swapping Scandal". Utusan online. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
- "Should UC go after fertility fraud doctor's assets?". Orange County Register. 2011-01-25. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
- "Fugitive in UC Irvine fertility scandal arrested in Mexico City; U.S. hopes to extradite him". LA Times Blogs - L.A. NOW. 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
-  - in Spanish - Accessed 30 December 2010
- Associated Press (March 23, 2011). "Doctor Accused In UCI Fertility Scandal Released From Mexican Jail". CBS Los Angeles. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Kim Christensen (April 1, 2011). "Doctor with ties to fertility scandal won't be extradited by Mexico". LA Times. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
- Answers.com review of Attack Accessed 23 October 2009
- Pulitzer.org's archive The Register's stories exposing R. Asch
- Legal summary by R. Asch
- ricardoaschsupport.com Website supporting R. Asch
- "In Quest for Miracles, Did Fertility Clinic Go Too Far?" Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1995. Accessed 23 October 2009.