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Patient didn’t know her doctor used his sperm to impregnate her in 1980, lawsuit says

For over 40 years, a woman believed sperm from an anonymous donor was used during her artificial insemination procedure in 1980 — leading to her daughter’s birth in 1981.

However, Sarah Depoian discovered her fertility doctor, Merle Berger, the founder of Boston IVF fertility clinic, secretly used his own sperm to impregnate her during the procedure, according to her lawsuit filed in federal court on Dec. 13.

In 1980, Depoian, who lives in Maine, visited Berger with her husband for fertility services after the couple struggled to conceive, a complaint says.

Berger told Depoian he could use the sperm of an anonymous medical resident who looked like her husband, according to the complaint, which says Depoian then agreed to an intrauterine insemination procedure.

“We fully trusted Dr. Berger,” Depoian said during a news conference.

Instead of using his sperm, Berger is accused of masturbating in his medical office and using his sperm during the artificial insemination procedure, according to the complaint.

The discovery was made by Depoian’s 42-year-old daughter, Carolyn Bester, after she bought and 23andMe DNA kits this year, a Dec. 13 news release by Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, the law firm representing the lawsuit, said.

The DNA test results led Bester to Berger’s granddaughter and his second cousin, who she realized she’s related to, according to the complaint.

After speaking with one of them, Bester learned Berger was her biological father, then told her mother, the complaint says.

“This is an extreme violation. I am still struggling to process it,” Depoian said in a statement.

Depoian is suing Berger, accusing him of purposefully concealing he used his sperm during the procedure.

“Some people call this horrific act ‘medical rape,’” attorney Adam Wolf, a partner at Peiffer Wolf, said in a statement. “But regardless of what you choose to call it, Berger’s heinous and intentional misconduct is unethical, unacceptable, and illegal.”


Berger worked at Boston IVF for more than 30 years before his retirement in 2020, according to WCVB-TV.



After Depoian discovered Berger is her daughter’s biological father, she confronted him with her attorneys, the complaint says.

When they spoke, Berger “did not deny that he inserted his own sperm” during Depoian’s procedure in 1980, according to the complaint.

“Dr. Berger’s life would have been entirely different had he admitted his assault on Ms. Depoian at the time. Dr. Berger went on to become one of the country’s most prominent fertility doctors. … He should have known better — and, in fact, did know better — than to abuse his patient,” the complaint says.

Depoian feels Berger assaulted her, and fears that he may have secretly impregnated other patients without their knowledge, according to the complaint.


Depoian’s lawsuit seeks judgment against Berger, damages and demands a trial by jury.

“I just want to say how proud I am of my mom for speaking out, and I’m honored to stand by her side,” Bester said in a statement.

Full Story: Miami Herald December 14 2023

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