After hearing impassioned testimony, the Arizona Medical Board on Wednesday vindicated a prominent Scottsdale fertility specialist whose techniques had raised concerns that they might be too risky.
The board began an investigation nearly one year ago, based on a sole anonymous complaint, into the practice of Dr. Jay Nemiro and asked him to stop performing two fertility techniques they said could put women and children at risk if used in excess.
By a 10-2 vote, the board at its monthly meeting decided not to take disciplinary action against Nemiro. Members also voted unanimously to drop their ban on his use of the two procedures that most fertility doctors in the country rarely perform these days.
“I’m elated but not so much for myself but for my patients,” said the 55-year-old Nemiro moments after the board concluded its hearing.
The board did vote unanimously to issue an advisory letter regarding Nemiro’s decision to put five embryos — more than the recommended two or three — in a Mesa woman last year who was acting as surrogate mother for a Gilbert couple.
The woman, who now lives in Texas, made national headlines when she gave birth to quintuplets.
Nemiro told the board during testimony he succumbed to pressure to make it possible for the biological parents in that case to have children of their own.
“I knew they only had one try,” Nemiro said, adding he regretted making such a decision and vowed not to do so again.
The odds of the surrogate mother having quintuplets were “astronomical,” Nemiro said.
Under questioning by the board over that case, Nemiro said: “I didn’t give her the five (babies), God did.”
At times during the hearing, Nemiro was slightly overcome by emotion, telling the board a “diagnosis of infertility is as psychologically devastating as (a) cancer” diagnosis. He described the pain he personally feels when counseling would-be parents.
An infertility specialist and reproductive endocrinologist with the Arizona Center for Fertility Studies, Nemiro was named a “Top Doc” by Phoenix Magazine in 2003.
The board had alleged Nemiro’s fertility techniques were causing his female patients to have multiple pregnancies at a higher-thanaverage rate, increasing the risk to both mother and child.
The board also alleged Nemiro was using two older fertility procedures that, when done in excess, posed “a danger to public health and safety.”
Nemiro disagreed there was a danger but he did agree to temporarily stop performing those two procedures, according to the Feb. 17 consent agreement he entered into with the state.
In the hearing, Nemiro said he felt pressured into entering the agreement out of fear that if he had not, the board would have held an emergency session and come to a decision then.
The state medical staff had asked the board to order Nemiro to stop conducting the procedures for a period of 15 years.
Nemiro’s attorney, Randy Yavitz, commenting before the hearing, said, “I consider that a lifetime (ban).”
Nemiro told the board the two procedures are safe. He emphasized that he does not “steer” patients to one particular procedure.
“I cannot force my will on a patient’s decision. I won’t force my will on a patient’s decision,” Nemiro said.
Three of Nemiro’s patients gave emotional testimony in support of Nemiro and his practices.
With her 18-month old daughter Sophia in tow, Jennifer Hunter, 37, of Phoenix told the board, “I’d like to introduce you to my daughter — she’s here in my life because of Dr. Nemiro.”
Clutching a silver-framed, black-and-white photograph of his five children, Michael Gordon, 49, of Paradise Valley said to the board, “I would be a childless man today” if their ban on those procedures had been in place 10 years ago.
Gordon and his wife, Lauren, 45, tried in vitro fertilization with another area fertility doctor six times without success.
The couple went to Nemiro and subsequently bore four children through one of the questioned procedures, and also one by natural means.
Charles Hawk, 43, whose wife Anne-Marie, 31, is undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment by Nemiro, told the board, “By sanctioning him you would be taking away any chance for couples to have a child.”
Nemiro said he will scale back using the two procedures in question, estimating he will use them approximately 50 percent of the time, depending on the patient’s condition and circumstances.
According to 2004 statistics from Nemiro’s office, of the 71 women who had fertilized eggs transferred to their reproductive systems, 26 had single births and 10 had more than one baby but less than five.