A new field of litigation has evolved in the United State: denouncing fertility fraud. In the latest episode, a nation-wide firm, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, announced that it was pursuing two fertility doctors who allegedly used their own sperm a generation ago to get women pregnant and without informing them.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Adam Wolf, the lawyer handling the cases. He claims that hundreds of fertility fraud cases will emerge across the US as people begin to investigate their geneology using home DNA testing kits.
In the first case, a San Francisco woman discovered that both of her children were the offspring of her fertility doctor, Dr Michael S. Kiken. Furthermore, through Kiken, the children are carriers of Tay Sachs disease.
In the second case a San Diego woman sought the help of Dr Philip Milgram in 1988 for artificial insemination, which resulted in the birth of their son. Milgram told her that he had used the sperm of a healthy and anonymous sperm donor -- but he allegedly used his own instead.
Milgram later was stripped of his medical license in California for drug-related conduct. He faced accusations of practicing medicine while intoxicated, failing to maintain records, and a host of other offenses. He later regained his license and now practices “addiction medicine” in the San Diego area.
Wolf is lobbying for federal regulation of the fertility industry. He told the media: “The actions of these doctors are horrific. The gross misconduct committed by these doctors is a profoundly intimate betrayal … We have to decide as a nation that the Wild West days for the IVF/fertility industry are over.”
Katie Richards is the San Francisco-area mother in the case against Dr Kiken. She said: “Dr Kiken used his own sperm. It’s sickening. Now, I have to live knowing that he violated me, and that my children – whom I love dearly – are a result of his disgusting conduct. All of our memories, and all of the memories that we have yet to make are forever tainted.”
Her daughter, Julie Druyor, also expressed her dismay: “I used to look in the mirror and recognize who was looking back at me. Now, sometimes I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize myself. Sometimes, I see ‘him.’ Sometimes, I see the man who violated my mother’s trust and turned our worlds upside down. I’m a product of my mother’s abuser.”
Bev Willhelm, of San Diego, is the mother in the case against Dr Milgram, said: “Instead of using the sperm of an anonymous donor and a physically and mentally healthy individual, as he promised, Dr Milgram used the sperm of a drug addict who had serious mental health issues … his own sperm.”
Most of the individuals who are the offspring of fertility fraud will now be between 30 and 45 years old, reflecting the advent of inexpensive and widely available home DNA testing kits, such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, which are often purchased as holiday presents. Wolf noted that families across America may be just a Christmas gift away from learning about a dark and unexpected part of their genetic past.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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