Fertility doctor accused of using own sperm to inseminate patients

INDIANAPOLIS - INDIANAPOLIS - A fertility doctor accused of using his own sperm to inseminate patients is facing felony charges, according to the Indy Star.

Donald L. Cline, 77, was charged Friday in Marion Superior Court with two felony counts of obstruction of justice, according to online court records.

Cline surrendered to the court during an initial hearing on Monday. Magistrate Stanley Kroh ordered him released on his own recognizance and scheduled a hearing for Oct. 17.

In court documents, prosecutor assert that Cline was revealed by online DNA testing sites and that he once said he may have used his sperm 50 times.

Fox59 reported that six adults who had been conceived through Cline's clinic in the 1970s and 1980s discovered through online DNA tests that they were siblings born to the same biological father. Cline had told their parents he would use donor sperm in artificial insemination.

One woman took a DNA test through the online service 23andme and found she was related to at least eight other people tested through the site, according to court documents. The website also showed that the siblings were genetically related to 70 of Cline's relatives, with the closest match being the doctor's first cousin.

In August the prosecutor's office conducted a paternity test on Cline for two of the siblings. Both came back more than 99 percent positive that Cline was the father of the two women.

Four siblings have filed complaints with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, according to the probable cause affidavit filed by the prosecutor's office. The Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to requests for information about the complaints.

Cline, who retired in 2009, responded to the attorney general's office in a letter in January 2015 saying he got donor sperm from resident doctors and dentists between 1971 and 1981. He said he had a policy not to use a donor for more than three successful pregnancies.

"I can emphatically say that at no time did I ever use my own sample for insemination," Cline wrote in the letter.

Cline went on to accuse his accuser of libel and slander.

"I followed suggested guidelines of the period," Cline wrote, according to court records. "I also did nothing morally or legally wrong."

He told the attorney's general office that the records of the individuals making the complaints were destroyed, in keeping with state law which only requires doctors to maintain records for seven years after the last date of treatment.

The youngest of the eight siblings was born in 1986, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Fresh donor sperm was commonly used in insemination until the advent of HIV in the mid-Eighties, said Dr. Laura Reuter, medical director of Midwest Fertility Specialists. Then, clinics began using cryo-preserved or frozen sperm that had been quarantined and tested, a practice that continues today.

New technologies that assist with male reproductive problems have also made the use of donor sperm less and less common for heterosexual couples. Donor sperm today is most often used for single mothers by choice and lesbian couples.

Reuter called Cline's behavior "deceptive and immoral," but said it cannot be judged through a modern-day lens.

"We have to go back and remember that that was a different era," she said.

Cline was a well-known local physician throughout his career. In 1979, he stopped his obstetrics practice and devoted himself to the field of fertility. In 2000 he helped pioneer a technique to freeze the extra eggs of women undergoing in vitro fertilization, rather than discarding those not used to create embryos.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Cline told one of his biological daughters that he felt pressured to use his own sperm when he did not have access to donor sperm. In one discussion, he only donated sperm nine or 10 times. In another discussion, he said it was more like 50 times.

He told the siblings he would just trying to help people have babies and that now that he has found God, he recognizes that he what he did was wrong because he hurt people.

Indy Star


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