June 6, 2024

Fertility fraud may still be happening in US

One suspects that in the 1980s, wherever there was IVF, there was fertility fraud – doctors who secretly used their own sperm to inseminate patients. Ellen Trachman, a Denver lawyer specialising in reproductive technology, estimates that more than 80 doctors have been caught in the US, mostly after their offspring happened to check their parentage with do-it-yourself DNA testing kids.

But that was long ago, right? Sadly, says Trachman, it may still be happening. Recently Dr Christopher Herndon, a physician with the University of Washington Medical System, surrendered his licence to practice after it was discovered that he had used his sperm as recently as 2009. The incident took place when he was practicing in California.

The University of Washington told patients that: “safeguards in place should prevent an incident such as the one alleged in California from occurring here.” But it is offering free DNA testing to concerned patients.

Trachman quoted Professor Jody Madeira, of Indiana University Bloomington. She said that: “the Herndon case proves that these incidents aren’t confined to the 1970s and 1980s but continued decades after standards of care mandated using frozen sperm to protect patients.”

She called for legislation to punish doctors who commit fertility fraud:

“these doctors not only defrauded patients and colleagues; they betrayed their profession, institutions, medical associations, and other organizations that spend precious resources to combat infertility and advocate for patients. Such duplicity runs deep, and scars the trust that patients place in their fertility care teams. In the wake of these deceptions, it is even more urgent to pass state and federal legislation ensuring that perpetrator physicians can be held accountable under the law.”