UC Davis Magazine

A matter of ethics

In vitro fertilization is one of a number of non-coital methods of conception conducted through assisted reproductive technology (ART) programs at UC Davis, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco medical centers. A fifth program, the UC Irvine Center for Reproductive Health, was closed in June 1995 following allegations of clinical and research misconduct by three faculty members practicing at the program. (The UC San Diego program, previously operated by the UCI Center for Reproductive Health physicians, was also closed in June 1995, but has since been reorganized and reopened under new leadership.) Among the widely publicized allegations involving the UCI physicians are the claims that eggs were given to other couples without the consent of the women from whom the eggs were taken. The allegations are currently under investigation by federal, state and university authorities.

A UC Task Force on Practice Standards for Assisted Reproductive Technology was appointed in July 1995 to review current administrative oversight of UC programs and make recommendations to strengthen oversight and improve quality of care. (The 14-member systemwide task force included Drs. R. Jeffrey Chang and Christine Rozance from UC Davis.) In a March 1996 report, the task force concluded that appropriate mechanisms and organiza- tional structures are in place to oversee the existing programs, and that there are a variety of university policies that provide direct guidance and governance to the programs with respect to informed consent, conflict of interest, and quality assurance. The task force included in its report a series of recommendations to further strengthen oversight and improve quality of care.

Regarding the allegations of misconduct, the task force reported that the UCI program "differed dramatically from other UC ART programs regarding informed consent practices," and that the lead physician operated the UCI and UCSD programs "outside the university's traditional department oversight structures." It also reported that "the alleged actions of the physicians formerly practicing at the UCI and UCSD ART programs represent extraordinary violations of accepted professional and legal standards." These violations were considered by the task force to be "extremely rare, highly unethical and unprecedented in the university's history."