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Fertility doctor sued for using own sperm in treating patients

21 September 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1064

A Californian woman is suing her fertility doctor for using his own sperm in her treatment.

Katherine Richards has accused Dr Michael Kiken of 'medical rape' after he used his own sperm, rather than that of an anonymous donor, to conceive her two children forty years ago. The case is one of a number in recent years of so-called 'fertility fraud', exposed by the advent of widely available genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry. 

'He secretly used his own sperm,' Richards told FOX News. 'Now I have to know that he violated me and that my children, who I love dearly, are the result of his disgusting conduct.'

Dr Kiken was revealed as the biological father after Richards' daughter, Julie Druyor, used a 23andMe test which revealed she was 50 percent Ashkenazi Jewish - unlike either Richards or the supposed sperm donor. When undergoing treatment in 1978 and 1981, Richards had consented only to a sperm donor who met specific requirements, including that the donor be Christian. 

A genealogist identified Dr Kiken as the donor and found that Druyor has a half-brother whose mother was also a patient of Dr Kiken. 

In addition, the test revealed Druyor is a carrier for the genetic disorder Tay-Sachs disease, which is more common in people of Jewish heritage. The disorder can cause seizures, mental and sensory disabilities, and premature death, but only if it is inherited from both parents. Carriers who have only one copy are unaffected. 

'Now I have to deal with the fact that I've passed down his genes,' said Druyor. 'Am I going to see him in my children? I hate that I even have to think about that.'

There have been multiple other cases of doctors using their own sperm to inseminate patients without their consent. Notably, in 2019 DNA testing confirmed that Dr Jan Karbaat in the Netherlands fathered at least 49 of his patients' children in the 1980s. In the US Dr Donald Cline admitted impregnating multiple patients, which resulted in at least 60 children. The case prompted the passing of the first fertility fraud bill in the US, in the state of Indiana (see BioNews 998).

However, states with explicit laws against such conduct are still the minority. Further still, while some states label unconsented use of donor gametes as fraud, only Texas classes it as sexual assault. The number of states with legislation is rising, in response to a surge of similar lawsuits.

Professor Dov Fox, a specialist in bioethics and law from the University of San Diego, California, commented that these cases exhibit 'a profound violation of informed consent.' He told Mercury News: 'We don't know how common it [fertility fraud] is. But it is becoming clear that it's not an aberration.'

2 August 2021 - by Georgina Al-Badri 
A lawsuit over a Canadian fertility doctor, who used his own sperm to impregnate patients has reached a settlement of £13 million Canadian dollars....
21 June 2021 - by Sarah Dingle 
Imagine: you have a life, a job, a house, and perhaps kids of your own. You're an adult, moving through the world with a sense of who you are and what you want...
8 February 2021 - by Alexandra Marshall 
'Am I a child of something unspeakable?' HBO's documentary Baby God released late last year is an exposé of a prominent Nevada gynaecologist who over the course of his career is thought to have impregnated hundreds of women with his own sperm...
7 December 2020 - by Bernie Owusu-Yaw 
A Brisbane sperm donor is currently under investigation by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Authority (VARTA) for fathering 23 children in one year...
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...
26 May 2020 - by Kriss Fearon 
The widespread availability of home DNA testing has revealed a disturbing trend in cases of fertility fraud, where fertility doctors use their own sperm for donor inseminations instead of sperm from the partner or a donor...
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...
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...
13 May 2019 - by Suzi Denton 
Indiana has become the first US state to pass legislation making it a criminal offence for fertility doctors to use their own sperm in treatment without their patients’ prior knowledge and consent...
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...
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