Severino Antinori, 70, was arrested at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Friday following a complaint filed by a 24-year-old Spanish woman who was being treated for an ovarian cyst at Milan clinic run by the specialist, police and lawyers involved in the case told the AGI news agency.
Antinori has had his licence to practice gynaecology provisionally suspended for a year and been placed under house arrest in Rome on charges of aggravated robbery and causing personal injury, the agency reported.
The alleged victim was a Spanish national with a nursing qualification who had recently begun working at the clinic.
Prosecutors allege that Antinori, who had met the woman by chance, set up the job interview and subsequently diagnosed the ovarian cyst with the sole intention of harvesting her eggs without her knowledge.
The woman says she had her mobile phone taken off her before being forcibly immobilised, placed under anaesthetic and operated on without her consent. She believed she was only going to be treated by injection for the cyst, according to her lawyer.
The investigation was triggered by the woman calling emergency services from a payphone in the clinic after she came round from the surgery.
Antinori’s lawyers described the charges against their client as “absurd”.
Prosecutors are also working on the hypothesis that this may not be an isolated case.
“The arrest of Severino Antinori is extremely serious because it indicates the existence of a market in eggs that will not stop at anything,” said Donata Lenzi, an Italian lawmaker from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party.
Antinori became famous worldwide in 1994 when his fertility treatment led to Italian Rossana Della Corte giving birth to a son at the age of 63. At the time she was the oldest woman to have given birth.
The gynaecologist was also involved in the treatment of Patricia Rashbrook, who became Britain’s oldest mother when she had a boy in 2006.
Antinori has also attracted controversy with his advocacy of the use of cloning technology to enable infertile couples to have children by injecting genetic material from a father into donated eggs. It is unclear whether he has ever overseen the creation of a cloned child.