April 12, 2024

Indiana could create new crime of ‘fertility fraud’ after painful scandals

IVF industry objects

A string of scandals about IVF doctors who have used their own sperm to impregnate their patients has led to an Indiana bill penalising “fertility fraud”. The proposed law would punish doctors with up to 2½ years in prison.

Sean Tipton, of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, opposes the legislation. He told the Washington Post that “errors and fraud in the industry are rare, and are easily addressed under existing laws.” He assured the Post that “Clinics maintain rigorous safety protocols to ensure that the correct genetic material is transferred, that donors are properly screened and that medical workers adhere to stringent ethical standards”.

However, this does not take into account the anger and anguish experienced by people who discover late in life that their real father was someone else.

More than 30 years after she was born, Indiana woman Jacoba Ballard discovered that her real father was fertility doctor Donald Cline. “My mother was violated. He took advantage of her in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life,” Ballard says.

Cline was found guilty, but Ballard believes that he should have been punished more harshly. He may have used his own sperm as many as 50 times without telling his female patients. But he was only deregistered (he was already in his late 70s) and fined US$500, plus put on a year’s probation. The sentence was “not enough to send a message”, says Ballard.   

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