NEW YORK – A woman filed a lawsuit against a New York fertility doctor alleging that the doctor used his own sperm to secretly impregnate multiple patients, something he said he discovered when DNA genealogy tests revealed he had at least nine half siblings.
The lawsuit was filed Saturday by the 35-year-old daughter of a woman who received fertility treatments from Dr. Morris Wortman in Rochester in the 1980s. She said she falsely told the family that the sperm donor had been a local medical student. He kept the truth a secret, the lawsuit says, even after the woman, his biological daughter, became his gynecology patient.
Wortman was with patients and was not available for comment Tuesday, his Rochester office said. The office did not immediately respond when asked for the name of an attorney who could speak on their behalf.
The case is one of more than 20 cases in recent years in which fertility doctors have been accused of using their own sperm, rather than anonymous donor samples, to treat patients. The discovery of such scenarios has been made possible with the emergence of genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.
In Indiana, Dr. Donald Cline was accused of using his own sperm to fertilize dozens of women after telling them that the donors were anonymous. Eventually, he pleaded guilty to lying during an investigation and received a one-year suspended sentence.
HBO released a documentary last year, “Baby God“, about a Nevada doctor accused of inseminating multiple patients with his sperm. In another example, a Colorado doctor was sued by at least six families alleging negligence and fraud for allegedly using his own sperm in several successful artificial insemination procedures between 1975 and 1989. A New Jersey woman sued a former New York doctor on similar charges earlier this year.
The woman who sued Wortman asked, through her attorney, that her name not be withheld due to the personal nature of the allegations and because they involved her medical history. She declined to be interviewed.
The lawsuit differs from others involving fertility doctors in that Wortman, a gynecologist, had also treated the woman as a patient for nearly 10 years, performing numerous breast and pelvic exams and discussing her sex drive and other personal issues.
The doctor’s conduct “shocks the conscience,” said the legal file.
The lawsuit says the woman knew she was born in 1985 by artificial insemination and that, in fact, Wortman had been “revered” in her family for helping her mother conceive through what they thought was an anonymous donation of sperm from a University of Rochester medical student.
But the woman began to question the story after taking a genetic test in 2016 that began linking her to one half-brother after another – all the people who were themselves the children of sperm donors.
One of those brothers, David Berry, had been in contact with the woman for about four years before his growing suspicions were confirmed. At first, he and other half siblings were delighted to meet each other for their shared bond. His feelings are more complicated now.
“An interesting dichotomy is feeling gratitude for your existence and knowing at the same time that you are the product of something that should never have happened,” Berry, 36, said by phone from Miami, Florida.
“It became a more difficult pill to swallow,” he said. “On the one hand, you are grateful for your existence and for the people with whom you are sharing the experience. On the other hand, I do not know how the violation of trust and confidence that a woman places in her doctor in the most intimate environment is forgiven. “
Meanwhile, Wortman continued to provide the woman with medical care, sometimes peppered her visits with personal questions about her husband and children and telling her about her own background as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. On a date, Wortman introduced him to his wife.
During a visit in April, the lawsuit says, Wortman chuckled and said aloud: “You are a really good girl, such a good girl.”
Follow-up DNA tests with Berry and Wortman’s daughter from his first marriage confirmed the genetic link in May, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Wortman and his Rochester clinic, the Center for Menstrual Disorders, of medical malpractice, battery, inflicting emotional distress, negligence, fraud and lack of informed consent.
Wortman is unlikely to face criminal charges because too much time has passed, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
“While no victim has yet come forward, our appeals office did a swift investigation and it appears that in reference to what has been made available to the public, any criminal action is prohibited by the statute of limitations,” he said Tuesday. spokeswoman Calli Marianetti in an email.
A handful of states, including Indiana, where Cline practiced, have enacted laws in recent years expressly making it illegal for a doctor to secretly donate sperm for a fertility patient, but few legal restrictions existed in the 1970s and 1980s, the period involved in many of the accusations.