An online DNA test revealed that a woman raised as a only child had eight siblings, alerting authorities to the doctor's activities
A fertility specialist in the US who allegedly used his own sperm to inseminate multiple patients has been charged with two counts of obstruction of Justice after being rumbled when a former client ordered a DNA test on the Internet.
In May 2015, a TV news report in Indianapolis covered the story of a woman, identified only under the pseudonym Carrie, who had taken a DNA test using 23andMe, a popular online service that allows people to have their genes analysed and receive information about their ancestry or potential health issues. Carrie had been raised as an only child, so was surprised to learn from the 23andMe database that it had already registered eight of her siblings.
What was already known to Carrie was that she had been conceived by a sperm donor father, used by her parents in the 1980s after their attempts to have a baby were fruitless. Accessing a sperm clinic, they were told that the donor was a medical resident whose sperm would not be used in more than three pregnancies.
Reaching out to her new siblings, Carrie soon learned that several of their parents has also accessed the same fertility clinic in the late 1970s and early 1980s as her own parents. Furthermore, the difference in age between the youngest and oldest siblings was eight years, which cast further doubt on whether the sperm donor could still have been a medical resident. For one of the women who conceived with it, the sample was described by her doctor as “fresh” and donated within an hour of the insemination process. According to the woman, she accessed donations as many as three times a week over a five-month window, suggesting that the donor, assuming all samples came from the same man, may have been employed in the clinic.
Investigations into the clinic led the siblings to Dr Donald Cline, the doctor who ran it at the time of their conception. When they managed to reach him, he told them that he’d destroyed all medical records from the time, prompting them to file a formal complaint with Indiana’s attorney general at the end of 2014. The now retired doctor at first denied any speculation that he had fathered the children, but later admitted to them that he had donated his sperm when none other was available, believing it to be in the medical interest of his patients.
Cline later told one of his biological children that it’s possible he fathered as many as 50 children. A paternity test on two of the original group revealed conclusively that Cline is their father.
This is not the first paternity scandal to rock the world of fertility medicine; in 1992, Utah doctor Cecil B Jacobson was found guilty of perjuring himself when answering questions about using his own sperm to father as many as 75 children. On this side of the Atlantic, Austrian doctor Bertold Wiesner, who worked with his obstetrician wife in a private clinic on Harley Street in London, is believed to have fathered as many as 600 children.
Unfortunately for the children Cline fathered, Indiana state law does not offer much recourse. But it is a crime to lie to officers of the attorney general during an investigation, meaning that Cline will face two counts of obstruction of justice.