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Dutch gynaecologist used own sperm to father 17 children

12 October 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1067

A gynaecologist fathered at least 17 children after secretly using his own sperm to impregnate fertility patients at a hospital in the Netherlands.

Dr Jan Wildschut used his own sperm in artificial insemination procedures, without patient consent, while working at Isala Hospital in Zwolle, the Netherlands. In all cases, his patients believed they were receiving sperm from anonymous donors. Now deceased, Dr Wildschut was exposed after one of his donor children matched with Dr Wildschut's niece on a commercial DNA testing website.

In a statement this week, Isala Hospital said: 'From a moral perspective, Isala [Hospital] finds it unacceptable that a gynaecologist-fertility doctor was both a practitioner and sperm donor.' The statement explained that currently 17 donor children of Dr Wildschut are known in addition to his legal children, confirmed by genetic testing

Dr Wildschut worked at Isala Hospital (formerly Sophia Hospital) between 1981 and 1993, where he was involved in the hospital's artificial insemination programme. His patients were not informed that the donated sperm was his own. Although Isala Hospital learnt of the scandal in 2019, they have only now released the information publicly, following discussion with both the affected patient families and Dr Wildschut's legal children. Explaining its decision to go public, the hospital claimed it wanted to 'contribute to greater transparency' around the issue of sperm donation.

Speaking to the Netherlands' De Stentor magazine, director of Isala Hospital Dr Ina Kuper said: 'We feel responsible and that determines how we deal with this now.' 

In its statement, the hospital also announced that it has made Dr Wildschut's donor profile publicly available on an online DNA database. Using this profile, other people may check whether Dr Wildschut is their biological father. It is not known how many more children Dr Wildschut may have secretly fathered while working as a gynaecologist. 

It is the second time in as many years that so-called 'fertility fraud' has been exposed in the Netherlands. Last year, it was revealed that fertility doctor Dr Jan Karbaat had covertly fathered 49 of his patients' children through sperm donation in Rotterdam (see BioNews 996). 

There has also been a global increase in similar cases coming to light. Earlier this year in the US, a fertility doctor was sued for using his own sperm to inseminate patients rather than that of an agreed anonymous donor (see BioNews 1064). Commercial genetic testing has played a pivotal role in exposing cases such as these.

Isala Hospital reported the discovery of Dr Wildschut's donor children to the Dutch authorities in 2019. However, the Health Care and Youth Inspectorate said it will not open an investigation given that the case 'took place at a time when there were no laws and regulations for fertility treatments.'

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