This Fertility Doctor Used His Own Sperm to Impregnate Patients
Dr. Donald Cline admitted to using personal sperm samples fifty times at his former Indiana fertility practice.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Doruk Salancı
A fertility doctor impregnated eight of his patients, which isn't really weird until it's noted that he did so using his own sperm. Dr. Donald Cline, now 77-years-old, admitted to using personal sperm samples approximately fifty times at his former Indiana fertility practice, according to court documents.
His excuse? He "felt that he was helping women because they really wanted a baby," Cline confessed to authorities in an affidavit.
Cline pleaded not guilty on Monday to two felony obstruction of justice charges over knowingly misleading investigators, said his attorney in a statement to NBC News. In 2014, authorities began looking into Cline's medical history when a woman in her thirties stumbled across her siblings online. After submitting a DNA test through 23andMe, she discovered that she was related to at least eight other people in the company's database. Her findings were confirmed by FOX59 through a separate DNA test, who also verified that the mothers of all eight individuals visited Cline's clinic during the 1970s and 1980s.
Several of the siblings confronted Cline about his fertility methods and were told that sperm samples from a single person would be used for a total of three viable pregnancies. Most countries place legal limits on the number of pregnancies that can arise from a donor's sperm, but the laws seem inconsistent and difficult to enforce. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that no more 25 pregnancies should result per donor in a population of 800,000 people. But in 2015, it was discovered that 47 siblings were fathered by a single Indiana man over two decades, and that the medical community guidelines in the United States failed to regulate the number of offspring stemming from his sperm samples.
Cline also told them that medical and dental residents provided the samples, even though residents only tend to serve around three years at a practice or hospital. When they asked to see their mothers' records, he said that all information about their treatment had been shredded. According to Indiana law, medical documents must be kept for seven years after a patient was last seen, Cline said. After that time had passed, he was able to dispose of them.
After receiving complaints from the Indiana Attorney General Office last year, Cline wrote: "I can emphatically say that at no time did I ever use my own sample for insemination." It wasn't until this year, when Cline met with one of his children, that he admitted to using his own sperm to impregnate some of his patients. Paternity tests later confirmed that he had indeed fathered two children using artificial insemination, though one person's results remain unknown, and five siblings were never tested.
"If he would have known that DNA [testing] would have come this far and this would have come out," the affidavit says, "he would not have done it."
Somewhat shockingly, it's still ambiguous whether Cline's conduct violated any state or medical legal guidelines at the time, according to ABC News. His case resembles that of Dr. Cecil B. Jacobson, a fertility doctor who fathered as many as 75 children with his patients, between 1976 and 1998. Jacobson was found guilty of 52 counts of fraud and perjury, and was sentenced to five years in prison. Yet, while Jacobson was convicted of fraud by a federal jury, members of the medical community noted that it wasn't illegal for a fertility doctor to use his own sperm, even though it was unethical.
Cline faces no further charges, and has been ordered to return to court on October 17. It's unclear whether any of his children have plans to take legal action against him for possible damages. In an interview with FOX59 last year, the siblings said they were most concerned with two things: knowing their family's medical history, and not knowing who their immediate family was.
"I don't think it is fair to have to have my children if they start dating someone to have to have a DNA test just to make sure they aren't cousins!"
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- sperm donors
- artificial insemination
- motherboard show
- Medical ethics
- Donald Cline
- felony charges
- offspring limits