April 21, 2024

Canadian fertility doctor deregistered over using own sperm

College finds that Norman Barwin acted in “a disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional” way

Dr Norman Barwin   

A leading Canadian fertility doctor has been formally deregistered for inseminating his patients with his own sperm or the sperm of unknown men. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario called the behaviour of Norman Barwin “beyond reprehensible”.

The College found that he had acted in “a disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional” way and that he was “incompetent”.

Barwin is now 80 years old and has not practised medicine since 2014. He had specialised in infertility although he was not formally qualified in gynaecology. In Toronto he was regarded as the “go-to” doctor for transgender patients.

Barwin is a well-known figure. He was a recipient of the Order of Canada and several honorary doctorates, and a former president of Canadians for Choice, the Canadian Fertility Society, the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada and Planned Parenthood Ottawa. A strong advocate of sex education, he set up the first sexual health clinics in Ottawa high schools. He vigorously promoted abortion rights and helped lesbian couples and single women have babies when no one else would. 

He resigned from the Order of Canada in 2013 after his misconduct became more widely known. He had received it for “increase[ing] understanding among the general public, government and the medical community of the importance of the family unit in society.”

It appears that between 50 and 100 children were conceived after their mothers received the wrong semen. Of these 11 have been genetically matched to Barwin through DNA testing with two children.  

Speaking on his behalf, Barwin's lawyer did not contest the facts of the case.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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