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Patient sues gynaecologist who used his own sperm in her mother's treatment

20 September 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1113

A woman who discovered that her gynaecologist was her biological father has filed a lawsuit against him for fraud and malpractice.

The woman was conceived via artificial insemination in Rochester, New York in 1985. Her mother was a patient of Dr Morris Wortman who was supposed to have used donor sperm in her treatment. Since her family always spoke highly of Dr Wortman, the woman sought his care when she was 26 and received ongoing gynaecological treatment from him, including vaginal and breast examinations.

Court documents filed by the woman's lawyers said that she 'was in shock and disbelief that he would continue [to] treat her as her gynaecologist if she were his biological daughter,' and that had she 'discovered she was the biological daughter of Dr Wortman she would never consent to being a patient in his gynaecology practice.'

The woman had known she was donor-conceived since childhood and began searching for her biological father in 2016, after the death of her legal father. Through DNA genealogy testing she found at least five half-siblings who were all born in the early and mid-1980s. Every time she discovered a new half-sibling, she would notify Dr Wortman's office. During a visit in April 2021, Dr Wortman asked numerous personal questions about her, her husband, children, and other private matters. 

According to court documents, 'At the very end of the appointment as Plaintiff was getting ready to leave and as he was writing something down he started to chuckle to himself and said out loud, "You're a really good kid, such a good kid"'.

After this visit, she began to suspect Dr Wortman might be her biological father. She asked one of Dr Wortman's children to take a genetic test to compare with hers and the DNA of a half brother she had discovered doing DNA genealogy testing. The result showed that they were 99.99 percent likely to be siblings. 

That half brother, David Berry, told the Seattle Times:  'It became a tougher pill to swallow. On the one hand you're grateful for your existence and the people you're sharing the experience with. On the other, I don't know how you forgive the violation of confidence and trust that a woman puts into her physician in the most intimate of settings.'

The lawsuit accuses Dr Wortman of medical malpractice, battery, negligence, fraud, infliction of emotional distress, and lack of informed consent. He is unlikely to face criminal charges, according to the Monroe County district attorney's office because the statute of limitations has expired. 

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