If true, this would be one of the most unethical things a doctor could ever do – not to mention one of the most criminal.
As reported by CTV News, a fertility doctor in Ottawa is facing accusations that he used his own sperm to impregnate two of his patients. Both patients had daughters who are now in their mid-20s.
In recent days, a statement of claim that could lead to a class-action lawsuit was filed against Dr. Norman Barwin, who once worked at Ottawa’s Broadview Fertility Clinic. The suit alleges that Barwin used his own sperm instead of that which his patients requested in at least two fertility cases. However, the claimants making the accusation say there could even be more pregnancies affected in the same manner.
Rebecca Dixon, 26, said she first suspected that the fertility doctor her parents sought out years ago could actually be her father after she discovered she had celiac disease, a hereditary condition that neither of her parents were afflicted with. At about the same time, CTV News reported, Dixon’s mother read an article reporting that it is unusual for a child with brown eyes to be born to parents whose eyes are blue.
Dixon decided to follow up on the issues with her family physician, having a blood and DNA test performed. The tests confirmed her greatest fears: She and her father were not related by blood.
Just a goof up in the lab?
“Certainly it was a complete shock when they first told me, and there have been further shocks along the way,” she told the Canadian news service.
After being given what was most certainly disturbing news, the family began researching a series of cases against Barwin’s practice. The found that he was suspended from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2013, after admitting he had inseminated four patients with the wrong sperm.
In one case, a woman who saw Barwin as a patient in the mid-1980s with frozen sperm from her husband – who was being treated at the time for cancer – eventually became pregnant. However, in 2011, she discovered through DNA testing that her son was not at all related to her husband.
When conducting their research, the Dixon family also noticed an “uncanny resemblance” between Rebecca Dixon and Dr. Barwin, the statement of claim says. She has dark hair and olive skin like Barwin, but neither of her parents do.
In September, Dixon contacted Kathryn Palmer, 25, of Vancouver, who was also conceived at Barwin’s clinic. Her parents had requested an anonymous sperm donor for their child.
In 2015, Palmer submitted a sample of her DNA to the Family Tree website because she wanted to learn more about the sperm donor her parents used. The results? Her DNA linked her to a second cousin in New York City who, according to the legal filing, is a relative of Barwin’s.
‘I think it’s very important this story be known’
The claim then says that Palmer contacted Barwin in August and he also agreed to undergo a DNA test. According to the legal filing, Palmer says she got an email from Barwin shortly thereafter in which he confirmed that he was indeed her biological father.
“He told me initially that he had no idea how it had happened,” she told CTV News. “And then later he told me that he had been testing a sperm counter and this must’ve been some contamination.”
DNA testing has also determined that Palmer and Dixon are half-sisters who share the same biological dad, the claim notes.
The potential class-action suit was filed by Dixon and her parents, Daniel and Davina Dixon. The claim seeks damages for pain and suffering, care costs for the past and future, as well as punitive damages. No monetary amount was listed in the claim.
Palmer has not joined the class-action suit as yet, but plans on doing so.
“I think it’s important for this story to be known,” she said, adding that she believes there are other children out there.