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Canadian doctor accused of using own sperm with 11 patients

16 April 2018
Appeared in BioNews 945

A Canadian fertility doctor is being sued by 11 former patients after DNA tests revealed he used his own semen in their treatment.

Dr Norman Barwin is accused of using his own sperm to inseminate patients who believed the sperm of their partner, or in some cases, that an anonymous donor was being used. 

'When people have discovered that their children are not as what was intended, it's a very distressing discovery,' Peter Cronyn, one of the lawyers representing the families, told the CBC.

The first claim arose in 2016 when Daniel and Davina Dixon filed a claim against Dr Barwin upon discovering that Daniel was not the biological father of their daughter, Rebecca. After receiving DNA test results, the family began researching Dr Barwin's fertility practices in Ottawa, Canada and later connected online with Kat Palmer, who was also conceived at one of Dr Barwin's clinics. 

Palmer had submitted a DNA test to the genealogy website Ancestry.com which suggested a match between her and a relative of Dr Barwin. Palmer contacted Dr Barwin over the results and 'on October 27, 2015, she received an answer via email from the doctor: 'Barwin confirmed that he was her biological father', according to claim documents. Palmer and Dixon later compared their DNA test results and found that the genetic fathers were a match. 

The Dixon's lawyers Nelligan O'Brien Payne launched a class-action suit after further investigations suggested that Dr Barwin was a paternal match to 11 people whose parents had sought fertility treatment his clinics. Fifty-one further families where the offspring's DNA does not correspond with the intended paternity are also represented – the male parent in 16 families and in the selected donor in a further 35 cases. 

The claims date from the late 1970s to the early 2000s and involve patients from two fertility clinics, Broadview Fertility Clinic and Ottawa General Hospital. The case has been widely publicised in Canada as Dr Barwin had previously been awarded an Order of Canada and a Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his work in the field of reproduction. 

This is not the first time Dr Barwin has been accused of breaching the trust of his patients and using the wrong sperm in fertility treatment. In 2013, the doctor's medical licence was suspended for two months after 'he admitted inseminating four women with the wrong sperm'. He later stopped practising medicine in 2014. None of the recent allegations against Dr Barwin have been proven in court.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Canadian doctor accused of using own sperm in IVF treatment
The Guardian |  6 April 2018
Dozens sue Canadian fertility doctor for 'using wrong sperm'
BBC News |  6 April 2018
Fertility doctor is father to 11 of clients' kids, lawsuit says
CNN Edition |  11 April 2018
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