In a recent blog post, we shared the story of retired Indiana fertility doctor, Donald Cline, who admitted to using his own sperm with dozens of his clinic’s patients over the course of four decades, fathering at least 46 children in the process without his patients’ consent or knowledge. Incredibly, Dr. Cline never served any jail time for his offenses. That’s because Indiana law didn’t specifically make it illegal for fertility doctors in the state to use their own sperm. That story unfolded at the end of 2017.
Fast forward to January 2019: The Indiana legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted on a bill that included a provision making it a felony for a doctor to use his own sperm or her own eggs without a patient’s consent. The lawmakers heard testimony from several people including Liz White, one of Cline’s patients who underwent fertility treatments in the 1980s. Ms. White testified that she had been told the sperm Cline used was donor sperm from medical students, and that the same donor’s sperm wouldn’t be used more than three times. When she learned that Cline had used his own sperm, she said she felt she had been “raped 15 times and didn’t even know it.”
Incredibly, the committee, in a 7-3 vote, decided to remove that provision from the bill. The committee member who argued (successfully) to remove the felony provision sought to convince other committee members that the state’s existing fraud and deception laws should suffice, and that it was unnecessary to have to specifically call out fertility doctors’ misuse of sperm or eggs. However, the county prosecutors who originally handled Dr. Cline’s case had determined that there was a gap in state law, a gap that allowed Cline to escape serious punishment.
There is still a chance that the fraud provision will be added back into the bill when the full Indiana Senate considers it. Without that provision, wronged mothers and their offspring would be limited to filing civil lawsuits in such cases. Only the state of California currently has a law making it a crime for a fertility doctor to misuse sperm; it is still possible that will change when this Indiana bill is reconsidered.
When you are ready to start or grow your family through assisted reproduction, contact us. We can help make sure your rights are protected contractually, provide you with a thorough legal consultation to explain the contract terms, and finalize your parental rights, if necessary.