Women who choose artificial insemination from anonymous sperm donors should be able to rely on the information they’re given from the fertility clinic or doctor about the donor. Unfortunately for dozens of women in Indiana, that trust was shaken when it was reported that a now-retired fertility doctor had used his own sperm to impregnate as many as 20 patients.
In a statement released in December 2017, Dr. Donald Cline expressed remorse for his actions. He was charged under Indiana law with obstruction of justice for lying to investigators. Court documents reveal that Cline admitted to using his own sperm approximately 50 times over four decades in an effort to help his patients when he didn’t have access to fresh sperm.
The matter came to light when some of the now-adult children fathered by Cline sought to find biological relatives online and became suspicious upon realizing they had many biological half-siblings. Cline’s patients were told that the sperm they received had been donated anonymously by medical students or medical or dental residents. They were also told that none of the donors’ sperm was used more than three times. In reality, Cline was using his own sperm to impregnate the women.
Incredibly, for his actions, Cline received just a one-year sentence, but that sentence was suspended, so he will not serve any jail time. No other charges were brought against Cline; Indiana law doesn’t currently include a specific prohibition against fertility doctors using their own sperm. For their part, at least some of Cline’s biological children are understandably angry and believe Cline’s only regret is having been found out.
Anyone considering adding to their family through surrogacy, donated eggs or sperm or other non-traditional means should work with an attorney to ensure legal documents and agreements adequately protect their rights. While legal language in a contract cannot prevent unscrupulous actions like those used by Dr. Cline, that language could be used to enforce justice if a patient was wronged.
The sperm donor contracts that we prepare for our clients are comprehensive and thorough. If necessary, we also help guide parents through the finalization of their parental rights, which can seem daunting and confusing. Our firm provides comprehensive legal and counseling services for those using assisted reproduction with a third party. Each client is ensured of receiving personalized attention, support and counseling. Contact us today to get started!