Italian fertility guru cries witch hunt over ‘stolen’ eggs charge
Severino Antinori, dubbed the grandmothers’ obstetrician for helping women in their 60s to have children, was recovering at his Rome residence on Sunday, a day after he was rushed to hospital.
He attributed the visit to the stress of being arrested and suspended from medicine over what his lawyers have dismissed as malicious claims.
“I have pains in my chest, I could have had a heart attack,” Antinori, 70, told the AGI news agency. “I am very ill because of this unjustified arrest. Do they want me dead?
“I am an honest man. I’ve never robbed eggs from anyone and while all this is going on the embryos that have been sequestrated are dying.”
Antinori has been under house arrest since Friday after being detained by police at Fiumicino’s airport on charges of aggravated robbery and causing personal injuries.
The charges followed a month-long investigation triggered by a 24-year-old Spanish woman who says she had her eggs harvested after being forcibly placed under anaesthetic while undergoing treatment for an ovarian cyst at Antinori’s Milan clinic in early April.
Lawyers for the physician claim the woman had signed consent forms and had tried to blackmail the clinic into giving her a permanent job by threatening to go public with a false version of what happened to her.
The alleged victim has a nursing qualification and had recently begun working at the clinic.
– ‘1,000 euros per harvest’ –
Prosecutors suspect Antinori had offered the woman a job and later diagnosed her as having an ovarian cyst as a pretext for being able to operate and remove eggs from her.
They are also examining statements from other women who say they donated eggs at the clinic in return for payment, which is against the law in Italy.
One of the alleged paid donors was quoted by La Repubblica as saying that Antinori personally oversaw payments for eggs.
“It was 1,000 euros for every harvest and an extra 500 if I brought a friend. I needed money, he needed eggs,” the 22-year-old Brazilian told the daily’s Sunday edition.
Antinori became famous worldwide in 1994 when Italian Rossana Della Corte giving birth to a son at the age of 63 thanks to his treatment.
Della Corte was the oldest woman to have given birth at the time but that record has since been beaten.
A 65-year-old, Annegret Raunigk, gave birth to quadruplets in Germany last year and Daljinder Kaur, who told AFP she was around 70, gave birth to a boy last month following fertility treatment in India, where a 72-year-old reportedly had a child in 2008.
Antinori was also involved in the treatment of Patricia Rashbrook, who became Britain’s oldest new mother when she had a boy in 2006 at the age of 62.
The physician is most controversial because of 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 although he has suggested as much in interviews.