A woman is suing a former Harvard Medical School professor and fertility clinic founder for allegedly impregnating her with his sperm more than four decades ago when she and her husband were trying to conceive a child.
In a complaint filed [by Peiffer Wolf attorney Adam Wolf] with the United States District Court for the District Of Massachusetts Wednesday and obtained by PEOPLE, Sarah Depoian alleged that Dr. Merle Berger “surreptitiously inserted his own sperm into his patient…covered up his egregious misconduct and prevented her from filing legal claims against him at the time.”
In 1980, Depoian and her husband went to see Berger to help the couple conceive a child, per the complaint. They alleged that Berger promised to use the sperm of a medical resident who looked like Depoian’s husband and did not know them.
Following the artificial insemination, Depoian gave birth to a daughter in January 1981.
In 2022, Carolyn Bester, now 42, purchased DNA kits from Ancestry.com and 23&me to learn more about her family history, the suit alleged. When the results came in, Bester claims she learned that she is not related to her father and was instead linked to Berger’s granddaughter and second cousin.
“After speaking with one of her newfound relatives, Carolyn pieced together that Berger is her biological father,” the complaint alleged.
Per the complaint, Depoian said that had she known if the insemination would involve Berger’s sperm, she would have not consented.
“To say I was shocked when I figured this out would be an extreme understatement,” Bester said in a press release. “It feels like reality has shifted. I just want to say how proud I am of my mom for speaking out, and I’m honored to stand by her side.”
“This is an extreme violation,” added Depoian. “I am still struggling to process it. I trusted Dr. Berger fully. We thought he would act responsibly and ethically. I will never fully recover from his violation of me.”
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for Harvard Medical School said that Berger was affiliated with the medical school, but was primarily employed at Harvard-affiliated hospitals, which the school neither owns or operates.
When Depoian allegedly contacted Berger after learning of his alleged conduct, the complaint alleged that “Dr. Berger did not deny that he inserted his own sperm into Ms. Depoian’s body.”
“He also did not deny that he covered up his misconduct by not telling her about his actions after he performed the IUI,” the complaint alleged.
The lawsuit also accused Berger, who is also a founder of fertility clinic Boston IVF, of covering up his alleged conduct. “He had multiple opportunities to be honest with Ms. Depoian after the insemination. He could have told her immediately after the insemination, just as he could have admitted his abuse of power days or weeks later,” the court documents stated. “But in order to cover up his misconduct and prevent her from suing him promptly, he concealed his fraud from Ms. Depoian.”
Depoian is seeking “damages in an amount sufficient to compensate her for her injuries.” A jury trial has also been requested.
Full Story: People December 14 2023