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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 11:14 GMT
Private work lands doctor in trouble

The High Court ruled for the university

An infertility expert who used university staff to help treat his private patients could have to pay back some of the profits.

Dr Simon Fishel was employed to carry out research work by Nottingham University, which paid him 138,000 a year.

However, he also ran fertility clinics abroad, charging up to 10,000 per patient, and used university-employed embryologists to help.

On Friday, the High Court ruled that Dr Fishel was in breach of his contract.

He now faces a future hearing at which he will have to disclose how much profit he made from the foreign work, much of which may have to be repaid to the university.

However, the judge also ruled that the clinics did contribute to his university research work, and accepted Dr Fishel's claim that he had not intentionally set out to mislead the university.

Trouble for other academics

The ruling will have implications for other academics who top up their salaries with private work.

Dr Fishel was one of the original team of three scientists responsible for the first test tube baby two decades ago.

The Nottingham unit, which he left in 1997, was funded by fees from private patients in the UK.

However, despite using workers from the unit in private work for the foreign patients, Dr Fishel kept the fees for himself and to pay the embryologists and other staff who went with him.

He had told the court that the university benefited greatly from all the work he carried out - the treatment given to patients abroad established the safety of new techniques, allowing them to be used in the UK, where controls are stricter.

University registrar Keith Jones said after the hearing that Dr Fishel had made "substantial" profits from the foreign work.

Dr Fishel said later: "I have dedicated my life to trying to help childless couples.

He said the judge had accepted that the work he did abroad meant that his team were able to develop and improve treatments for childless couples throughout the world to help them have their own children.

"I am pleased that the judge rejected the vicious and unfounded attempts by the university to attack me and the work I did.

"The payment we received from the clinic abroad for our difficult and skilful work was only a consequence of that work, not the reason we did it."

He said the amount he would now have to repay the university would be tiny compared with the figures the university spent on lawyers pursuing him over the last three years.

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See also:
23 Aug 99 |  Health
Age limit for NHS fertility treatment
20 Jan 00 |  Health
Call to end IVF 'lottery'
 |  Health
Scientists' menopause breakthrough
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