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US fertility doctor accused of impregnating patients with his own sperm

19 September 2016

By Annabel Slater

Appeared in BioNews 869

A retired fertility doctor in the US has been accused of using his own sperm to fertilise the eggs of patients at a fertility clinic.

Dr Donald Cline may have used his own sperm at least 50 times and fathered at least eight children. Cline has been charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice regarding this investigation, by two of the now adult children.

Suspicions arose in May 2015 when Fox59 reported that an Indiana woman had used the home DNA testing service 23andMe, and had discovered she was related to eight other users on the 23andMe database. Further testing identified the users as siblings. The five mothers of the siblings were inseminated at the clinic during a span of eight years in the 1970s.

A probable cause affidavit states that Cline told six of the adult siblings that he had donated his own sperm at least 50 times, instead of using sperm donated by dental and medical students or residents, as he had told the mothers. The affidavit states that Cline 'felt pressured to use his own sperm because he didn't always have access to fresh sperm', and, although he admitted it was wrong, he 'felt that he was helping women because they really wanted a baby'.

At the time it was not clear whether state guidelines or medical professional guidelines applied to cases of fertility doctors using their own sperm. However, when the state began investigating complaints, Cline denied ever using his own sperm for insemination.

Cline retired in 1990. He told the Attorney General's Office that the mother's records were no longer available as Indiana law requires medical patient records to be kept for only seven years.

Cline's lawyer released a statement saying that Cline is not accused of hiding documents, influencing witnesses or otherwise not co-operating with the attorney general's investigation.

Marion county deputy prosecutor Tim DeLaney said, 'The overriding issue is truthfulness. From our perspective the moment it got elevated to an investigation by the AG's office, it was his obligation to tell the truth and he lied.'

Some siblings have expressed the wish to simply know how many of them there are. One of the siblings stated, 'I just want validation. I want to find out as much truth as I can, but I know deep down that we never will know the complete truth as to how many siblings we do have.'

Cline was charged on 9 September and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will return to court on 17 October.

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