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Dutch court rules donor families can test fertility doctor's DNA

5 June 2017
Appeared in BioNews 903

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that DNA tests can be performed on items belonging to a deceased fertility clinic director accused of using his own sperm for fertility treatments.

The Medisch Centrum Bijdorp fertility clinic – run by Dr Jan Karbaat from his house in Barendrecht, near Rotterdam – was closed in 2009 for failing to meet storage standards and paperwork irregularities.

Now, 12 children, aged eight to 36 years, and ten parents have mounted a court case to test their DNA against Dr Karbaat's, amid accusations that he used his own sperm rather than that of other donors to father the children.

Early in May, Dr Karbaat's son voluntarily donated his DNA for testing, and results revealed that the doctor could be the father of 19 children born though IVF.

It is not known, however, if any of those 19 individuals are among the 22 involved in the current court case, which ruled that Dr Karbaat's own DNA may now be obtained from any of the 27 items confiscated from his house following his death, including a toothbrush, nose hair trimmer and support stockings.

However, the results must remain sealed until more evidence can be shown, and another judge is required to rule whether or not Dr Karbaat's DNA can be compared with the DNA of the children involved.

A lawyer representing the 22 children and parents told the court that Dr Karbaat, who died in April this year, once claimed to have fathered 60 children through IVF. The lawyer representing Dr Karbaat's family has fought against the approval of DNA tests, saying that their privacy should be respected. Dr Karbaat himself had also specified in his will that his DNA samples not be taken.

Dutch law limits the number of people who can be conceived from one sperm donor to 25, and children have the right to find out their donor's identity when they are 16 (although donations made prior to 2004 may still be anonymous). Laura Bosch, a lawyer with Defence for Children who helped prepare the lawsuit, has argued, 'children who are donor-conceived have the same right as all the other children in society. We created a case where the right to know your parents is central.'

People born using donor sperm from Dr Karbaat's clinic have spoken to Dutch media about their anger and according to the BBC, should the DNA profiles match, the 22 individuals hope to sue the doctor's estate.

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