A renowned Boston-area fertility doctor is facing a federal lawsuit from a former patient who alleges he secretly impregnated her with his own sperm during an artificial insemination procedure decades ago.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Boston federal court, Maine resident Sarah Depoian explained that she and her husband went to Dr. Merle Berger — the now-retired co-founder of Boston IVF — in 1980 for help getting pregnant. According to the lawsuit, Berger “promised to perform an insemination using the sperm of a medical resident who resembled [Depoian’s] husband, who did not know her, and whom she did not know.”
Instead, the doctor secretly substituted his own sperm, Depoian’s lawyer alleged during a news conference Wednesday.
“He did so without her consent and against her wishes,” said Peiffer Wolf partner Adam Wolf. “Some people call this horrific act medical rape. But regardless of what you call it, Dr. Berger’s heinous and intentional misconduct is unethical, unacceptable, and unlawful.”
Depoian’s daughter, Carolyn Bester, was born in January 1981.
Speaking to reporters, Bester said she learned the truth about her parentage earlier this year, after purchasing DNA testing kits from Ancestry.com and 23andMe. Among her DNA matches were Berger’s granddaughter and second cousin, she said.
“I spoke to one of them, and I started piecing it all together,” Bester said. “To say I was shocked when I figured this out would be an extreme understatement. It feels like reality has shifted.”
Yet Wolf contended that Berger didn’t deny the allegations when initially confronted. He asserted that Depoian’s story has been consistent from the start and said they look forward to proving their case.
Doctor’s alleged acts were an ‘extreme violation,’ former patient says
Depoian said she and her husband “fully trusted” Berger when they sought his help conceiving.
“It’s hard to imagine not trusting your own doctor,” she told reporters Wednesday. “We never dreamt he would abuse his position of trust and perpetrate this extreme violation.”
She said having her daughter by her side has given her the strength to come forward with her story.
“I am struggling to process it, but this never, ever will change the love we have for our daughter, Carolyn,” Depoian said. “If anything, this has lit a fire in me to fight for her and any other unsuspecting victim, whether by Dr. Berger or another fertility doctor.”
Wolf said the new allegations raise questions about whether Berger might have secretly used his own sperm to inseminate other patients. He also suggested that Bester might file a lawsuit of her own against the physician at some point in the future.
Bester, who lives in New Jersey, cited her 5-year-old son as one reason she and her mother are seeking accountability in court.
“I want to be able to look my son in the eye and tell him that we stood up for something that was wrong that happened in our family,” she said.
Full Story: Boston.com December 13 2023