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‘Extreme violation’: Boston fertility doctor accused of secretly fathering patient’s daughter

A woman is suing a longtime Boston fertility doctor, claiming he is the father of her adult daughter despite saying claiming a medical resident would be the father — a lineage allegedly revealed to her daughter through a pair of at-home DNA testing kits.

Sarah Depoian is suing Dr. Merle Berger, a founder of the Boston IVF fertility clinic who has since retired, for fraud and other claims in Massachusetts’ federal court, seeking damages. Berger denied the claims through a lawyer as the suit was filed on Wednesday.

Depoian sought treatment from Berger in 1979, she said, and was told that he would insert “the sperm of a medical resident who had similar physical traits as my husband” and who would be unknown to the couple, while the couple would be unknown to the donor, she related at a news conference Wednesday.

She went on to have a baby in early 1981 who didn’t know the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father — Berger told Depoian not to reveal the treatment, known as intrauterine insemination, to anyone, according to the family’s lawyer [Peiffer Wolf Attorney Adam Wolf].

Depoian’s daughter, 42-year-old Carolyn Bester, said she learned first that she had a different biological father through DNA tests from and 23andMe, then pieced together who her father was weeks later when a relative of Berger “reached out to me and said, ‘Are we related?’ And I said, ‘Interesting question, I don’t know.'” By that point she knew Berger had been Depoian’s fertility doctor.

The discovery left Bester devastated — she said she didn’t get out of bed for a day: “It was really, really shocking and horrible to find that out, that that’s your life’s story and that’s the story of how you were created is not great, to say the least.”

Depoian, a retiree who moved from Massachusetts to Maine with her husband three years ago, said that her daughter’s support and love helped her share what happened to the family.

“It’s hard to imagine not trusting your own doctor. We never dreamt he would abuse his position of trust and perpetrate this extreme violation,” Depoian said.


NBC10 Boston has reached out to Boston IVF for comment.

Boston IVF was founded in 1986, and Berger retired in 2020, according to its website. Depoian said she was treated by Berger at his private practice.

Full Story: NBC Boston December 13 2023

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