Ricardo Hector Asch (born 26 October 1947)  is an obstetrician, gynecologist, and endocrinologist who worked with reproductive technology and pioneered gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). He has been accused of unethical practices 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.
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.
The 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 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. Asch and colleagues Jose Balmaceda and Sergio Stone were indicted on charges of mail fraud and income tax evasion. Asch went to Mexico, Balmaceda 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 who held a tenured position was fired by the UC Board of Regents in 2000.
Extradition efforts by the US justice system
After Asch had suspended his practice and sold his home, he opened a practice in Mexico and later in Argentina. He attained a Mexican citizenship in 2001 in addition to his native Argentine citizenship. The US justice system has been trying to get him extradited to the United States for trial after he had moved to Mexico.
In 2004 Asch was arrested in Argentina and released after setting bail. In 2008 the Argentinian courts determined that Asch as an Argentinian citizen could be tried in Argentina. He was acquitted and the pending charges of mail fraud and signing false rent statements were dismissed.
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
In 2003 Asch received the APART (Association of Private Clinics of reproductive Techniques) award in Tokyo.
In 2004 Asch organized and chaired the First International Symposium on Halachic Medicine in Mexico City.
Asch, who owned an entertainment company at the time of the scandal, was one of the producers of the Andre Agassi and Nick Bollettieri instructional tennis video Attack. His photographic work has been exhibited.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "UC Fertility Case Doctor Sells Home" Los Angeles Times 24 October 1995. Accessed 23 October 2009
- Ricardo Asch (August 21, 2013). "Dr. Ricardo Asch Legal". Retrieved June 21, 2015.
-  - 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
- Ricardo Asch photos
- Pulitzer.org's archive The Register's stories exposing Asch
- ricardoaschsupport.com Website supporting Asch
- "In Quest for Miracles, Did Fertility Clinic Go Too Far?" Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1995. Accessed 23 October 2009.