Detailed but dry account of malfeasance and witch hunts at the UC/Irvine’s fertility clinic.
The early-1990s controversy reflects the challenges of new technologies like in vitro fertilization, state coauthors Dodge (Public Affairs/Univ. of Colorado, Denver) and Geis (Law/UC Irvine; Crimes of the Century, 1998, etc.). “It is also,” they write, “a story replete with evasions, nastiness, and injustice.” The authors begin in 1995, when traumatized couples came forward to claim that eggs stored at the clinic had been implanted in other women without their permission. Dodge and Geis then backtrack to the clinic’s 1986 hiring of prominent reproductive physician Ricardo Asch, whose accounting and record-keeping were soon questioned by subordinates. Conflicts between doctors and staff led to audits amid an atmosphere of distrust; in 1994, three clinic employees filed formal complaints with multiple fraud-related allegations. By the time the National Institutes of Health intervened, the situation had developed into a PR disaster. The authors convincingly argue, as many in the medical community did at the time, that UCI deliberately directed the scandal toward Asch and two Latin American colleagues, who were publicly tarred as greedy and remote. Asch and José Balmaceda fled to their home countries; Sergio Stone stayed and was seemingly prosecuted for the allegations against all three. Devoting long chapters to each doctor’s case, Dodge and Geis explore the ambiguities, arguing that the physicians were pilloried for behavior that was hardly unique. Alienation of civilian managers and poor record-keeping were common practices in the medical subculture, the authors assert, abetted in this instance by UCI’s lack of oversight until damage control was necessary. Dodge and Geis take a broad view, summarizing the scandal’s every stage and providing legalistic references that fill in the details without generating much suspense. Their tart analysis of the thorny field of contemporary reproductive science, however, is eye-opening and informative.
More for students of clinical management and reproductive issues than general readers.