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Revealed:The Fertility doctor that uses his own sperm to artificially inseminate his patience without consent has been confirmed to be the father of at least 48


 

An Indiana fertility doctor who used his own sperm to artificially inseminate his patients without their consent has been confirmed to be the father of at least 48 children, many of whom only recently discovered their true identities.


One of those children, 33-year-old Heather Woock, spoke out about how she learned who her father is in a report published this week by The Atlantic.

Woock, of Indianapolis, said when a stranger reached out to her in August 2017 claiming to be her half sibling, she didn't believe it.

However, she was disturbed that the mystery person mentioned the name of Dr Donald Cline, the fertility specialist her mother had seen before she was born.

Woock's mother told her not to worry about it, so she didn't. Until the stranger kept messaging her, followed by several others claiming to be her half siblings. 

They tracked her down on Facebook through her username on the Ancestry.com account she created when her husband gave her a DNA test for Christmas.

Her parents, who went to Cline for donor insemination, say they had no idea that he was the person who provided the sperm sample.

DNA tests from services including 23andMe and Ancestry.com confirmed at least 48 children that were fathered by Cline.

The number could likely be much higher considering the number of people who haven't ever done DNA tests.

Many of Cline's children have built a community since learning the news, keeping in touch through a Facebook group.

Every holiday season they brace for the reveal of even more siblings through DNA tests given as gifts.

One of the women who was inseminated by Cline more than a dozen times over a five-month period also spoke to the Atlantic in the report this week, saying: 'I feel like I was raped 15 times.'

White, now 66, had gone to Cline's office with her husband in 1981, and found him to be a kind, gentle man. 

She noted how Cline's office was decorated with photos of babies he'd helped conceive, a detail that didn't strike her at the time but is highly unsettling in retrospect. 

Cline had opened his practice in 1979, when fertility medicine was quite new and sperm banks didn't exist and doctors typically hunted down donors themselves.

According to the birth dates of Cline's youngest-known offspring, the doctor stopped using his own sperm in the late 1980s when sperm banks became more common.

In White's case, Cline offered to find a medical trainee who resembled her husband so that no one would know that it wasn't his biological child.

She said he also instructed the couple not to tell anyone that they'd sought help from a fertility specialist.

In 2018, White's son Matt told AP that he remembers the specific day in September 2016 when the mystery of his sperm donor began to unravel.

It started when Matt read a news report that Cline was facing charges for lying about inseminating his patients.

He found Cline's address online and recognized it as the location of his mother's former doctor. Then he Googled the doctor's name. When a photo popped up, he was stunned: He looked like Cline.

No other charges were filed against Cline because Indiana law doesn't specifically prohibit fertility doctors from using their own sperm.

Cline's conviction has done little to placate his children, who have been left wondering why he did what he did to their mothers.

Fueled by their anguish, Ballard and Cline's other offspring have been pushing legislation that would make it a crime for doctors to treat patients for infertility by using their own sperm or egg without consent.

'I feel like our mothers were violated,' Ballard said of her father in an interview with The Associated Press last year. 'He has torn all of our lives apart.

'He cheated himself out of knowing his children. That's what we are.'

She said of her half-siblings: 'We also feel cheated that we didn't get to know each other growing up.'

Ballard said the only silver lining she's found is in the camaraderie that's developed between her and a few of her siblings.

She added that as the popularity of DNA tests grows, they expect to uncover even more half siblings.

Cline apologized 'for the pain his actions have caused' but didn't specify how often he used his own sperm in procedures.

Cline's sentencing, though, was not the end of this story. Instead, in an extraordinary epilogue, three one-time strangers - White, Harmon and Ballard - have forged a kinship as brother and sisters, even as they wrestle with the revelation about their identities.

They've also reached out to 21 other men and women, all in their 30s, who've been identified through DNA tests as half-siblings - evidence, they say, that Cline is likely their father, as well. About a half-dozen of them live in central Indiana.

Many stay in touch through a private Facebook page, and several gathered last fall for a cookout with their spouses, children and three mothers who had been Cline patients.

Others have gone on social outings, shared childhood photos, taken note of similarities and, at times, confided in one another private details of their lives.

'It's a very surreal experience,' White said. 'I've shared personal stories that I haven't shared with anyone but my wife.

'You have almost this instant bond with people who are not only part of this horrible situation, but you can relate to them on an intimate level in a way you can't with anyone else.'

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