A new lawsuit claims that “one of the country’s most prominent fertility doctors” secretly used his own sperm instead of a donor’s to impregnate a woman in 1980.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Boston’s federal court, accuses Boston IVF founder
Dr. Merle Berger of secretly replacing a donor’s sperm with his own with a patient who was undergoing IVF. The suit claims that the now-retired doctor is guilty of fraud and violating consumer protection laws, and asks for a jury trial and compensation estimated to be worth more than $75,000.
According to the lawsuit, Maine resident Sarah Depoian and her husband went to Berger for help conceiving a child in 1980. Her husband’s sperm could not be used, so Berger said he would use the sperm of a medical resident she’d never met who looked like her husband.
As a result of the artificial insemination, Depoian gave birth to a daughter in January 1981. But the lawsuit says she didn’t discover that Berger used his sperm instead of a resident’s until early this year when her daughter took a DNA test and discovered that she was related to two of Berger’s family members.
“Ms. Depoian felt incredibly violated upon finding out that her doctor inserted his own sperm into her body,” the lawsuit reads. “She feels like she is the victim of assault. And she is concerned that, if Dr. Berger violated her in this manner, he may have done so to other unsuspecting female patients.”
The lawsuit argues that Berger must have used his sperm intentionally. It also asserts that he did not tell Depoian what he had done, despite having many opportunities to do so, in order to keep her from suing him.
“Dr. Berger’s life would have been entirely different had he admitted his assault on Ms. Depoian at the time,” the lawsuit reads.
Not only did he go on to found one of the largest fertility clinics in the country, it says, but he also became an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, where he taught until 2021.
“He should have known better — and, in fact, did know better — than to abuse his patient,” the lawsuit reads.
Depoian would not have agreed to be impregnated using Berger’s sperm and found the realization “greatly traumatic,” according to the lawsuit. As a result of finding out the truth, it says, she has begun experiencing sleep problems, anxiety and marital problems, among other issues.
The lawsuit also claims that Berger didn’t deny that he used his own sperm to impregnate Depoian when she confronted him in the wake of receiving the DNA results.
“Ms. Depoian, like all patients, had a right to know what was being inserted into her body. She also had a right to refuse the insertion of sperm into her body to which she did not consent,” the lawsuit reads.
Many fertility doctors have been exposed for secretly impregnating their patients using their own sperm in the last few years as consumer DNA tests have become more popular. Among the most famous is Indiana fertility specialist Dr. Donald Cline, who inseminated dozens of his patients with his own sperm.
Full Story: MassLive December 14 2023