Fertility Doctor Uses Own Sperm Instead of Donor’s
By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Jul 26, 2018
When a couple has difficulty conceiving, a potential solution may be visiting a fertility specialist who can discuss options for artificial insemination. As an article from WebMD explains, artificial insemination is a process by which “a doctor inserts sperm directly into a woman’s cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus.” There are different methods of artificial insemination, but the most common method is intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves the doctor inserting sperm directly into the uterus. If you visit a doctor for artificial insemination and request specific sperm from a specific donor, you have a right to be certain that you are being inseminated with that sperm. Failure to inform a patient about the identity of sperm, or the insemination of a patient with the wrong sperm, may amount to medical malpractice.
According to a recent article in Medscape, a 36-year-old woman has filed a claim against the obstetrician-gynecologist who inseminated her mother in 1980. Rather than inseminating the plaintiff’s mother with donor sperm, the doctor, Gerald Mortimer, inserted his own sperm. The identity of the donor became clear after the plaintiff sent her DNA sample to Ancestry.com and discovered that her father was not the donor her parents had selected.
Fraudulent Artificial Insemination and Medical Malpractice
The plaintiff in the recent case, Kelli Rowlette, filed a lawsuit against Mortimer and his wife, and she also named Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates (the medical practice) in the lawsuit, which alleges medical malpractice, fraud, and breach of contract. What is the background to this claim?
In 1980, Rowlette’s parents, Howard Fowler and Sally Ashby, were having difficulty getting pregnant. They went to Dr. Mortimer at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates for help. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Mortimer suggested artificial insemination, using a mix of Fowler’s sperm along with sperm from an anonymous donor to assist in the conception process. Dr. Mortimer told the couple that they were able to choose a donor with attributes they wanted, and the mix would include 85 percent from Fowler and 15 percent from an anonymous donor.
Fowler and Ashby agreed to this plan, paid the costs for artificial insemination, and they provided the specifications for the donor sperm. In selecting a donor, the couple chose a student in college who resembled Fowler, who had blue eyes and brown hair and was more than six feet tall. However, according to the lawsuit, although Dr. Mortimer informed the couple that he had sperm from an anonymous donor matching the specifications, he actually used his own sperm in the artificial insemination. Ashby became pregnant through the artificial insemination, and neither she nor Fowler knew that Dr. Mortimer had used his own sperm instead of sourcing from an anonymous donor with the characteristics they specified. Both Fowler and Ashby learned of the sperm “switch” after Rowlette took the DNA test on Ancestry.com.
Similar Medical Malpractice Claims Connected to Sperm Donors
This is not the first medical malpractice case to arise out of a woman being inseminated with the wrong sperm. For example, according to a report from NBC News, a woman learned that the sperm donor she had selected was not the sperm donor used in the insemination. This case in particular, along with others like it, have been attributed to human error. In other words, rather than the doctor intentionally substituting one sperm sample for another, the switch was a result of a mistake.The case of Kelli Rowlette, discussed above, not only involves insemination with the wrong sperm, but possibly intentional wrongdoing, according to the lawsuit.