Here are excerpts from Wednesday’s testimony before a Senate panel probing UC Irvine’s Center for Reproductive Health.

Debra Krahel: whistle-blower and former senior associate director of ambulatory care at UCI Medical Center:

“By December, 1993, I had discovered questionable financial arrangements between the medical center and the doctors at the Center for Reproductive Health. When I questioned this, I was told that the doctors had a ‘special’ arrangement and that I should not concern myself with that practice.”


“Due to [medical center executive director] Ms. [Mary] Piccione’s absence, I immediately walked to [medical center deputy executive director] Mr. [Herb] Spiwak’s office and showed him the vial [of HMG Massone, an unapproved fertility drug allegedly at the clinic]. Herb seemed reluctant to focus on my concerns. I repeatedly asked for direction. Herb said that Marilyn [Killane, the clinic’s office manager] was a ‘problem and you need to get rid of her.’ . . . He advised me to use a ‘hands off’ approach and focus on my other areas of responsibility.”

“In April, 1994, Carol Chatham, my senior administrative analyst, informed me that the staff was alleging that human embryos were being ‘switched.’ ”

“It appeared that most of the transfers were occurring between young women producing viable eggs and older women who were indicated on the chart to be post-menopausal, thus not producing eggs. Mr. [Norbert] Giltner [an operating room nurse] reported that these young women were patients trying to achieve a pregnancy and evidently could produce healthy eggs; the doctors were giving eggs, and sometimes embryos, from these healthy patients to sterile patients. When it became clear that the necessary consent forms weren’t contained in the patient charts, I asked questions about screening for HIV and Hepatitis B. Precautionary screenings didn’t appear to be part of the care protocol.”

“At this juncture I was astonished to learn that Mr. Giltner had reported this complaint in past audits in 1992 and 1993.”

“Bob [Chatwin, UCI’s principal auditor] expressed concerns that, if the information made its way back to the physicians, loss or destruction of patient charts would again occur. This seemed logical to me because the previous audits coincided with break-ins at the Center for Reproductive Health, each resulting in only patient charts and records being taken.”

“On the morning of July 27, 1994, I placed a call to ‘Patient M.’ Norbert Giltner, the operating room nurse, was adamantly convinced that ‘Patient M’ did not donate her eggs. When I talked to this patient, I asked her if I could send an updated consent form for her review. She was puzzled and asked what the forms were for. I explained that they were for the donation of her embryos. She told me that she and her husband were not interested in donating their embryos. I did not disclose to her that I suspected their embryos had been given to a post-menopausal patient who nine months later delivered a baby boy.”

“Early in the afternoon of July 27, 1994, I was contacted by Mary Piccione. She told me not to come back to the office because I was being placed on administrative leave. When I asked her the basis for the leave, the phone went dead.”

“In November [1994], my co-whistle-blowers and I were interviewed by members of the chancellor’s executive staff, chancellor’s counsel Paul Najar, Associate Vice Chancellor Sandra Lier and Assistant Vice Chancellor Lon Orey. Our interviews were conducted separately, but each of us was asked the question, ‘How much do you want?’ and ‘What would it take to settle this today?’ Our attorney who was present at the meeting was outraged and he objected to the inappropriateness of the solicitation.”

“I am grateful for this forum and being allowed to share my knowledge of this situation. My co-whistle-blowers and I wish to communicate a special message to the patients and families who have unwillingly been caught up in this misfortune. The patients have been the basis of our strength, the motivation for seeking the truth, and the driving focus that has consumed our lives for the last year.”


Sergio Stone: doctor at fertility clinic:

“The [university officials are] taking such an adversarial stand that it has made it impossible for me to argue or justify my case in any form or fashion.”

“[My reputation and 17-year relationship with UCI] have been changed and shattered forever by what I believe are unsupported allegations made against me by people who do not know me.”

“[UCI officials have] been unwilling to show me one piece of credible evidence that I have done things of which I am accused and [have] taken from the beginning a position of absolute mistrust.”

“[The university has] sued me concerning matters that it knows I have no involvement.”

“I have no knowledge that transfers of eggs took place without consent. I did not participate in these alleged actions.”

“I believe the university administration may have had knowledge of alleged complaints as early as 1991.”


Sen. Tom Hayden, (D-Santa Monica) chairman of the Select Committee on Higher Education:

“In the end, however, this hearing is about whether fertility doctors are becoming godlike in their sway over nature, and when doctors play God, the question is, who’s watching?”

“Less than one year ago, Mr. Ricardo Asch [during a network interview said that society should] ‘set up some guidelines of what is right and what is wrong [in reproductive work], what is good and what is bad’ . . . [or] there will be just, absolute reproductive anarchy.’ ”

“However, university officials tend to isolate the breakdown as a merely localized phenomenon involving only a handful of ‘bad apples.’ But how could the university have lionized, subsidized and protected these very bad apples for so long if an effective system of oversight was in place?”


Norbert Giltner, nurse at the Center for Reproductive Health:

“I have pursued [the complaint of misuse of human embryos] with my supervisors all the way. . . . Until I ran into Mr. Chatwin and Ms. Krahel, it seemed like nobody was believing me.”

“I knew that a couple of patients in question, there is no way they would have volunteered to donate eggs.”


John Challender, husband of a former patient of the center:

“The emotional stresses of infertility are great. We sought out Dr. Asch based on his reputation as one of the best doctors for infertility. We trusted Drs. Asch, [Jose] Balmaceda, [Sergio] Stone and others at the Center for Reproductive Health with this very important part of our life. Now it seems that our trust has been betrayed.”


Mary Piccione, executive director of UCI Medical Center:

“I have not retaliated against any of the three people alleged to be whistle-blowers.”

“I have a history of being a public servant for a very long time. . . . Never has somebody so heartbreakingly attacked me.”


Herb Spiwak, deputy executive director of UCI Medical Center:

“All I can say is I believe there was one whistle-blower. I think the two other people were poor performers cloaked as whistle-blowers in that they were about to lose their jobs.”


Marilyn Killane, first whistle-blower and former office manager at center:

“I saw the [unapproved] drugs in the hall that [an employee] was wrapping to ship to Mexico. I told her she could not do it. It was illegal.”

“I just think they could have looked into [the drug charges] a little better than they did.”