A former Harvard Medical School professor and fertility clinic founder has been accused of secretly impregnating a patient with his own sperm more than 40 years ago in a new lawsuit.
Sarah Depoian, 73, and her husband sought treatment at Boston IVF Fertility Clinic in 1980. She alleges she was told by Merle Berger that the sperm would come from an anonymous donor, according to a lawsuit filed in the US District Court District of Massachusetts on Wednesday.
Ms Depoian’s daughter Carolyn Bester, who was born in January 1981, discovered that Dr Berger was her biological father through DNA kits purchased earlier this year on Ancestry.com and 23andMe, according to court documents.
“This is an extreme violation,” Ms Depoian said in a statement released through her lawyers Peiffer Wolf.
“I trusted Dr Berger fully. We thought he would act responsibly and ethically. I will never fully recover from his violation of me.”
Ms Depoian’s attorney Adam Wolf said the fertility doctor had used his own sperm “without her consent and against her wishes”.
“Some people call this horrific act ‘medical rape.’ But regardless of what you choose to call it, Berger’s heinous and intentional misconduct is unethical, unacceptable, and illegal,” Mr Wolf said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Ms Depoian was told that the sperm used to impregnate her would come from a patient who resembled her husband, who did not know her, and whom she did not know.
DNA testing showed that Ms Bester was related to Dr Berger’s granddaughter and second cousin, and pieced the puzzle together after speaking to his relatives.
“To say I was shocked when I figured this out would an extreme understatement. It feels like reality has shifted,” Ms Bester, who lives in New Jersey, said.
“My mom put her trust in Dr Berger as a medical professional during one of the most vulnerable times in her life. He had all the power and she had none.”
Harvard Medical School distanced itself from the allegations, telling the Associated Press in a statement that Dr Berger’s primary place of employment was at several affiliated hospitals which it does not own or operate.
IVF Boston told WCVB that the claims occurred prior to Dr Berger’s employment at the clinic.
Several high-profile cases of fertility doctors using their own sperm to impregnate patients have emerged in recent years.
Donald Cline, an Indiana fertility specialist, had at least 94 biological children during the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2017, Cline received a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, as Indiana law didn’t specifically ban fertility doctors from using their own sperm.
Several of Cline’s descendants shared their stories for the 2022 Netflix documentary Our Father.
In 2022, a Vermont jury awarded $5.25m to Cheryl Rousseau after she accused Dr John Coates III of using his own sperm to impregnate her in 1977.
In May, New York fertility doctor Morris Wortman who was accused of using his own sperm to impregnate several patients died when the hand-built airplane he was in fell apart mid-flight and crashed, authorities said.
Ms Depoian is seeking “damages in an amount sufficient to compensate her for her injuries.”
Full Story: Independent December 16 2023