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Canadian doctor loses licence for using own sperm in IVF

1 July 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1004

A Canadian fertility specialist, Dr Norman Barwin, has lost his medical licence for using the wrong sperm, including his own, to inseminate a number of IVF patients. 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario revoked Dr Barwin's licence and ordered him to pay costs following an investigation that showed evidence of twelve cases of fertility treatment where he had used the wrong sperm. Patients were never informed of the error and in most cases accidentally discovered the information themselves leading to serious repercussions for the families involved.

Carolyn Silver, acting as prosecutor for the college, called Dr Barwin's actions an 'inexcusable deception', stating that his 'shocking actions will leave an indelible stain on the profession'.

Dr Barwin was originally suspended for two months in 2013 after admitting using the wrong sperm in three fertility treatment cases, going on to give up his licence altogether the following year. However, in 2016, following further allegations dating back as far as 1978 from two different clinics in Ontario, the college reopened its investigation.

During the recent disciplinary hearing, the regulatory panel was presented with impact statements from four cases. Rebecca Dixon, who waived a publication ban protecting her identity, said that she had discovered three years ago that Dr Barwin was her biological father, having become suspicious following a diagnosis of celiac disease, a hereditary condition shared by neither of her parents.

When a DNA test showed that Dr Barwin was her father she said 'in that moment, my life changed forever' and felt her entire identity was thrown into question. It made her feel both ashamed and 'contaminated', placing strain on her family. Dixon subsequently discovered that because of Dr Barwin's actions she had 15 half-siblings.

One child of Dr Barwin's fertility treatment similarly discovered that Dr Barwin is her biological father, via online DNA registry and DNA testing. Another patient 'felt violated - dirty - almost as if I had been raped' when she discovered that an unknown donor's sperm, and not her husband's, had been used to inseminate her, according to the Canadian Press.

Absent from the disciplinary hearing in Toronto, Dr Barwin's lawyer pleaded no contest as he was charged with incompetence, failing to maintain the standard practice of the profession and engaging in dishonourable or unprofessional conduct.

'There is no precedent for the case you have before you,' Silver told the disciplinary committee. 'Dr Barwin's patients and their families were the unsuspecting victims of his incomprehensible deception…it is the most egregious violation of a patient's trust. These patients came to Dr Barwin and trusted him to help them start a family,' she said.

Dr Barwin is also facing a class action lawsuit filed by several of his patients. The lawsuit alleges that more than 50 children were conceived after their mothers were inseminated with the wrong sperm, including 11 allegedly using Dr Barwin's sperm.

20 September 2021 - by Ruth Retassie 
A woman who discovered that her gynaecologist was her biological father has filed a lawsuit against him for fraud and malpractice...
20 September 2021 - by Sara Cohen 
Many readers will have heard about the case of Dr Norman Barwin from Ontario, Canada, who, from the early 1970s until the 2010s, allegedly inseminated hundreds of his patients with his own sperm or the wrong sperm...
12 October 2020 - by Christina Burke 
A gynaecologist fathered at least 17 children after secretly using his own sperm to impregnate fertility patients at a hospital in the Netherlands...
3 February 2020 - by Suzi Denton 
At least six women and their families are suing a doctor for negligence and fraud, after they discovered that he had used his own sperm in their fertility treatment...
12 August 2019 - by Sarah Gregory 
A couple in Ohio is suing a fertility clinic and associated organisations after a genetic test given as a Christmas present revealed a sperm mix-up in their IVF treatment...
20 May 2019 - by Jen Willows 
A bill to expand the definition of sexual assault to include fertility fraud has been passed by the Texas house of representatives...
29 April 2019 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
DNA tests have confirmed a Dutch doctor fathered 49 children after secretly using his own sperm to impregnate women at his fertility clinic...
16 April 2018 - by Laura O'Donovan 
A Canadian fertility doctor is being sued by 11 former patients after DNA tests revealed he used his own semen in their treatment...
18 December 2017 - by Theofanis Michailidis 
A retired fertility doctor who used his own sperm to inseminate patients will not be jailed for his actions...
7 November 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A Canadian fertility doctor is facing a class action lawsuit by the families of some of his former patients, who allege that he used his own sperm in donor-conception procedures without their knowledge or consent...
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