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ARKIB : 22/07/2000

University Fires Professor In Embryo-swapping Scandal

SAN FRANCISCO - An internationally known in-vitro fertilization expert accused of stealing women's eggs has been fired from the University of California at Irvine.

The UC Board of Regents on Thursday fired Dr. Ricardo Asch, one of three doctors who ran the Center for Reproductive Health at UC Irvine. Dr. Sergio Stone was fired in March and Dr. Jose Balmaceda was an untenured professor whose contract was not renewed.

The centre was closed in 1995 after patients claimed their eggs were taken without their consent and implanted in other women, resulting in an estimated 15 babies of uncertain parentage.

Asch and Balmaceda fled the country after the scandal broke. Asch practices in Mexico and has not returned to face charges he stole patients' eggs. Balmaceda, accused of insurance fraud but not egg theft, is in Chile.

They are the only two tenured faculty members fired in the campus' 35-year history. Asch did not appear before the board Thursday.

''It's good to finally end these matters,'' said UC Irvine Chancellor Ralph Cicerone.

The three doctors have been on unpaid leave since 1996.

Stone tried to save his job in March, telling the board he was ''not the despicable person described by the administration.'' He was not accused of stealing eggs but was convicted in 1997 of federal mail fraud in connection with clinic billing practices.

The University of California is suing all three doctors, trying to recoup some of the dlrs 17 million paid out to settle lawsuits by former clinic patients. -

AP

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