February 21, 2024

Boston IVF pioneer allegedly had a dark past

Boston IVF is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2024. Its website declares proudly that “we firmly believe the true foundation of great patient care begins with dependability, communication and trust. We owe our reputation as a worldwide leader in reproductive medicine to the great people who work here.”

It is one of America’s leading clinics – according to its website, “The physicians at Boston IVF are affiliated with The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University’s School of Medicine.”

However, in recent weeks, Boston IVF has experienced a credibility crisis. A co-founder of the business, Dr Merle J. Berger, has been accused of using his own sperm to impregnate one of his patients in 1980. A Maine woman, Sarah Depoian, is suing him for unspecified damages. Her daughter, Carolyn Bester, discovered her true paternity when she used a genetic history test kit.

Boston IVF has done its best to distance itself from Dr Berger. It pointed out that the lawsuit concerned an incident which happened before the company was created. “Patients should be assured that our field continues to uphold the most rigorous ethical and medical standards,” it declared.

However, in 2020, when Dr Berger retired, the company’s website praised him as visionary. “Dr. Berger’s career is essentially the history of IVF in America,” it declared. “Dr. Berger co-founded Boston IVF more than 30 years ago and had the vision to establish an outpatient IVF center located outside of a hospital … At the time, the idea was quite controversial.

Harvard, too, was quick to repudiate him. According to the Washington Post, it said that “while Berger was academically affiliated with the medical school, his primary employment was at various Harvard-affiliated hospitals, which the university does not own or operate.”

In 2020 Dr Berger published a career retrospective, “Conception: A Fertility Doctor’s Memoirs”. In it he wrote: “Sometimes I felt that I understood women and empathized with them more than I did with men. This feeling was reinforced when my practice eventually was limited to infertility and IVF as I delved into women’s lives even more deeply, met their partners, and experienced their drive to reproduce.”

Ms Depoian might scoff at this. Now she says that: “This is an extreme violation. I am still struggling to process it. I trusted Dr. Berger fully. We thought he would act responsibly and ethically. I will never fully recover from his violation of me.”