Woman Sues Fertility Doctor After Learning He Used His Own Sperm To Impregnate Her

Illustration for article titled Woman Sues Fertility Doctor After Learning He Used His Own Sperm To Impregnate Her
Photo: HENNING BAGGER/AFP (Getty Images)

In news that is both deeply disturbing and disturbingly common, a woman is suing her fertility doctor after finding out that he used his own sperm to impregnate her decades ago.

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The Washington Post reports that after receiving a genealogy kit for Christmas, Julie Druyor discovered that her biological father was not the man who had raised her, but actually her mother’s fertility doctor, Michael Kiken. Now Druyor’s mother, Katherine Richards, is suing Kiken for having deceived and violated her when he inseminated her in 1979.

Richards claims that when her doctor referred her to Kiken, he had promised to her that the sperm donor he’d chosen would come from a similar ethnic background and have a similar appearance to her husband. According to the lawsuit, Richards’s late husband “was 5’11 with hazel eyes. His family background was Norwegian, Irish and English.” Kiken, on the other hand, “was much shorter than Plaintiff’s husband, slender, with brown eyes, and an olive complexion. Defendant’s family is Jewish, and he did not share the same geographic ancestral ties as Plaintiff’s husband.”

“We weren’t supposed to tell anybody that it was conceived via donor,” she recalled. “Dr. Kiken drummed it home that the donor would be anonymous and remain anonymous.”

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In court filings, Kiken admitted to using his own sperm to impregnate Richards and in some really perverse logic claimed that he was actually fulfilling his obligation to her by concealing that information.

“Dr. Kiken did that which he was asked to do and did use his own sperm to impregnate the plaintiff,” his attorneys wrote. “Anonymous donor meant that the patient would not know the donor’s identity, he would be anonymous to her.”

Kiken also attempted to justify his behavior by noting that at the time he did the procedures on Richards, frozen sperm was rarer and less reliable.

Director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego Dov Fox says that other fertility doctors who practiced decades ago have used the same rationalizations to justify impregnanting their patients with their own sperm without the patient’s knowledge.

“I can’t imagine any world where this isn’t a grave violation,” he said. “They weren’t telling them because they knew what they were doing wasn’t kosher.”

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Although five states now have laws barring doctors from using their own sperm to inseminate patients, those laws are not retroactive, and often once the women realize what has happened the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits has already passed. And even when a lawsuit is possible, it can be difficult to win because of the nature of the violation. It’s horrifying that this type of abuse of power from medical professionals claiming to act in their patients’ best interest was such a common phenomenon that a number of states have had to pass legislation preventing it in the future.

So let me clarify: it’s a problem when doctors want to help someone get an abortion, but apparently, it’s no biggie when a doctor inseminates their patient with their own sperm without their knowledge? Sighhhhh.

Freelance writer who loves sandwiches, astrology, & fighting on the internet.

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DISCUSSION

I’m not really sure what this has to do with access to abortion? Was that mentioned anywhere in the story? Was there someone saying this is fine but abortion is evil (I can’t read the paywalled article)? Yes, abortion should be affordable and easy to access, of course, I just don’t see what it has to do with this story.

On to the story itself - this is gross, and I’m frankly amazed there’s only 5 states with these laws. Anonymous means just that - it should be someone the parents have no connection too, and the fertility doc is just way too close to the process. And yeah, there’s a reason the doc didn’t say he was gonna do it, or ask - everyone knows on a gut level this is skeevy.

All that being said, this happened in 1979, and it’s a civil lawsuit, which means you have to show damages. How on earth would you do that? Are you gonna argue the kid would have been more successful with different DNA? That’s a can of worms and a half. Was there emotional trauma because the kid looked different than their dad? Was their trauma cause they found out their dad wasn’t their dad? That would have happened anyway with the genealogy kit.

This seems more like a case for medical ethics boards than the courts. If the Doc is still practicing, revoke/suspend his license and make the discipline public (I assume it works similarly to lawyers, where there are public records when a Doc is punished by their state agency). I just don’t know that a judge or jury is gonna find monetary damages this long after the fact.