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In the midst of growing interest in reports of a gruesome stem-cell and human-organ black market that traffics in newborn babies taken from their mothers, an investigator looking into the matter has been sacked “for political reasons,” she says, because she was getting too close to the truth.

Several reports in British papers last week told the story of a video showing a post-mortem examination of infants of Ukrainian mothers who believe their babies were stolen from them at birth.

The video was given to reporters by a charity worker representing 300 families who believe their healthy babies were falsely declared dead by staff at a maternity hospital in the Ukraine’s most easterly city of Kharkiv.

Due to pressure from families, authorities agreed in 2003 to exhume the babies’ bodies for examination. A senior British forensic pathologist who has viewed the video says that what he’s seen does not look like standard post-mortem practice, the BBC reported.

The video shows severed limbs and torsos with organs, including brains, stripped away.

The thorough dismemberment of the bodies has led some to believe that, if the grisly evidence points to the babies having been murdered, the hospital may be supplying harvested stem cells from bone marrow to an underground market.

The Ukraine has become the destination of last resort for many sufferers of incurable diseases – as well as those seeking cosmetic rejuvenation – who come from all over the world for stem-cell injection therapy. Treatments cost as much as $24,000 in Ukraine and much more in the West.

Critics not only question the value of stem cells to treat many of these disease but also the choice of treatment regimes and even how clinics there are able to acquire sufficient material to provide a commercial service.

Officially, the cells are taken from aborted fetuses with the mothers’ consent, but, given the hundreds of Ukrainian women who have complained of newborns stolen and the recently surfaced post-mortem video, the government authorized an investigation into whether a trade in babies-killed-to-order exists.

One of those investigators was Irina Bogomolova, who worked in the chief prosecutor’s office in the capital, Kiev. But, she says, she’s been removed from the case after demanding that the inquiry be expanded beyond Kharkiv’s maternity hospital.

“I was sacked for political reasons,” Bogomolova told the London Telegraph. “I demanded an investigation into all maternity wings in hospitals across Ukraine and I was relieved of duty after making that demand.”

The Council of Europe is scheduled in February to investigate allegations that newborn babies have been killed to provide stem cells and internal organs. Officials will focus on the role, if any, played by Ukranian research centers and maternity hospitals in the international trade in stem cells.

An earlier investigation in 2004 was dropped for lack of firm evidence, but the latest charges have caused the case to be reopened.

However, the sacked Irina Bogomolova won’t be taking part.

“A trade in stem cells exists here … I suspect there is a lot of bribery going on, right up to highest levels,” she charged.

“Pregnant women, especially from rural areas, are very vulnerable targets as they will obviously believe whatever the doctors tell them. It’s easy to take their babies from them and tell them they died or were born dead due to complications.”



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