A woman is suing a New York fertility doctor, alleging that he secretly impregnated multiple patients with his own sperm, which she discovered after DNA genealogy tests revealed she had at least nine half-siblings.
The 35-year-old daughter of a woman who received fertility treatments from Dr. Morris Wortman in Rochester in the 1980s filed the lawsuit on Saturday. According to the report, he misled the family into believing the sperm donor was a local medical student. Even after the woman, his biological daughter, became his gynecology patient, he kept the truth hidden, according to the lawsuit.
Wortman’s Rochester office said he was with patients and unavailable for comment on Tuesday. When asked for the name of an attorney who could speak on his behalf, the office did not respond right away.
The case is one of more than 20 in recent years in which fertility doctors have been accused of treating patients with their own sperm rather than anonymous donor sperm. The rise of genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe has enabled the discovery of such scenarios.
Dr. Donald Cline of Indiana was accused of using his own sperm to impregnate dozens of women after convincing them that the donors were anonymous. He eventually pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence.
Earlier this year, a New Jersey woman filed a lawsuit against a former New York doctor based on similar allegations. In another case, a Colorado doctor was sued by at least six families for allegedly using his own sperm in several successful artificial insemination procedures from 1975 to 1989, alleging negligence and fraud. Last year, HBO released “Baby God,” a documentary about a Nevada doctor accused of inseminating multiple patients with his sperm.
She said she didn’t want to be interviewed. Because of the personal nature of the allegations and the fact that they involved her medical history, the woman who sued Wortman requested that her name be withheld through her attorney.
Wortman, a gynecologist, had also treated the woman as a patient for nearly ten years, performing numerous breast and pelvic exams and discussing her sex drive and other personal issues.
The doctor’s actions “shock the conscience,” according to the legal filing.
The woman knew she was born through artificial insemination in 1985, according to the lawsuit, and Wortman was “revered” in her family for assisting her mother in conceiving through what they thought was an anonymous sperm donation from a University of Rochester medical student.
However, the woman began to doubt the story after taking a genetic test in 2016 that connected her to one half-sibling after another — all of whom were sperm donor’s children.
His emotions have become more complicated. Before their growing suspicions were confirmed, one of the siblings, David Berry, had been in contact with the woman for about four years. He and his half-siblings were initially overjoyed to meet because of their shared bond.
“It’s an interesting dichotomy to feel grateful for your existence while also knowing that you’re the product of something that should have never happened,” Berry, 36, said over the phone from Miami, Florida.
“On the one hand, you’re grateful for your existence and the people with whom you’re sharing it. On the other hand, I’m not sure how you can forgive a woman’s physician betraying her confidence and trust in the most intimate of settings.” “It became a more difficult pill to swallow,” he explained.
Wortman introduced her to his wife at one of their meetings. Meanwhile, Wortman continued to provide medical care to the woman, interspersing her visits with personal questions about her husband and children, as well as stories about his own experiences as a child of Holocaust survivors.
During an April visit, Wortman allegedly chuckled to himself and said aloud, “You’re a really good kid, such a good kid,” according to the lawsuit.
The genetic link was confirmed in May by follow-up DNA testing with Berry and Wortman’s daughter from his first marriage, according to the lawsuit.
Wortman and his Rochester clinic, the Center for Menstrual Disorders, are accused of medical malpractice, battery, infliction of emotional distress, negligence, fraud, and lack of informed consent, according to the lawsuit.
According to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Wortman is unlikely to face criminal charges because too much time has passed.
“While no victim has reached out yet, our appeals bureau did some quick research and it appears that any criminal action is barred by the statute of limitations in reference to what has been made publicly available,” spokesperson Calli Marianetti said in an email Tuesday.
A few states, including Indiana, where Cline practiced, have enacted laws making it illegal for a doctor to secretly donate sperm for a fertility patient in recent years, but there were few, if any, legal restrictions in the 1970s and 1980s, when many of the allegations were made.