'Baby God': Not just Quincy Fortier, here are other doctors who used own sperm to impregnate unsuspecting women
It is not clear how common fertility fraud is yet, or why exactly doctors commit it but it may come down to a 'perverse power trip'
In HBO's latest documentary, 'Baby God', retired police captain Wendi Babst discovers that her mother's fertility doctor, Quincy Fortier, is her biological father after she uses a DNA testing kit from Ancestry.com. From there, Wendi investigates Fortier's use of his own sperm to impregnate the women who visited his hospital. It turns out he did not just impregnate women who had come for fertility treatments but also impregnated at least two others who were not looking to get pregnant — one of them his 17-year-old stepdaughter, whom he had sexually molested since she was just a toddler.
As it turns out, Wendi has countless half-siblings, learning about new ones as time goes by. Viewers might wonder why Fortier resorted to such misdeeds — was it because there was a lack of frozen sperm? Or was it born of some narcissistic need to have his DNA propagated? They might also wonder whether Fortier's is a unique case. Unfortunately, an internet search will reveal that over the years, many fertility doctors have been accused — and found guilty — of doing the same, and is called "medical rape". In fact, the count might surprise you to know that there have been enough for three states in the United States that have implemented laws to protect people against such predators. Here are some of the disgraced doctors who were found or accused to have used their own sperm to impregnate their patients.
Like with Wendi Babst, home DNA testing kits led to the discovery that a local fertility doctor in Indianapolis, Donald Cline, had secretly used his own sperm to impregnate patients in the 1970s and the 1980s. As more and more people began using the DNA test kits, more and more of Cline's biological children were found. In 2017, Cline was convicted on two felony counts for obstructing the state attorney general's investigation into the matter. The discovery of Cline's led to the state of Indiana passing a law to protect future patients. In 2019, Indiana signed the first such law in the United States that would specifically prohibit fertility fraud and deception.
In 2019, retired Idaho Falls gynecologist, Gerald Mortimer, admitted to using his own sperm to inseminate a woman — and admitted to doing so to multiple women. Mortimer had been sued by his biological child, Kelli Rowlette, whose parents sought fertility treatments from Mortimer before her birth in 1980. While both Sally Ashby (Rowlette's mother) and Howard Fowler provided samples, Mortimer used his own sperm without Ashby's or Howard Fowler's consent or knowledge. Like Babst, Rowlette discovered the truth about her biological father when she did a DNA test from Ancestry.com.
Cecil B Jacobson
Perhaps the most famous of the doctors who used his own sperm — and perhaps the earliest to have been convicted, Cecil B Jacobson was discovered to have been using his own sperm to impregnate women much before home DNA testing kits were invented. Operating a reproductive genetics center in Virginia, Jacobson would falsely tell women they were pregnant, only to tell them by the third month that the fetus had died. It was during the investigation of this that it was discovered that Jacobson was also using his own sperm — after having informed patients they were from anonymous donors — to impregnate women who sought fertility treatments from him. It is suspected that he may have fathered as many as 75 children. In 1992, he was convicted of 52 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and perjury, and was sentenced to five years in prison and had his medical license revoked.
John Boyd Coates
In 2018, Peter and Cheryl Rousseau filed a civil lawsuit against John Boyd Coates III and a Vermont-based fertility clinic after it was discovered that Coates had used his own sperm to impregnate Cheryl in the 1970s. Despite the couple's decision to use an unnamed medical student — after being falsely told that Peter's vasectomy was irreversible — Coates allegedly used his own sperm. The truth was uncovered when the Rousseaus' daughter, Barbara took genetic tests from both Ancestry.com and 23andMe.
Dutch fertility doctor, Jan Karbaat was found to have used his own sperm to impregnate women and had confirmed to have fathered 49 children, and potentially as many as 200, proving that the situation does not just happen in the United States. Karbaat’s fertility clinic in the town of Barendrecht, a suburb of Rotterdam, was ordered closed in 2009 by a Dutch government health care agency due to poor administration and record keeping.
There are many more doctors who have been accused or found guilty of fertility fraud. Others include Ben Ramaley, Michael Kiken, Norman Barwin, Gary Vandenberg, and more. It is not clear how common fertility fraud is yet, or why exactly doctors commit it. Dr. Julie Cantor, MD, JD, a lecturer in law at the UCLA School of Law who specializes in health law and reproductive rights, told IFLScience that it could be a "perverse power trip," saying, "The answer may come down to two truisms – from Lord Acton’s 'power corrupts' to 'follow the money'."
"The most charitable take would be something like the patient couldn’t get pregnant and the available sperm was not leading to embryos or pregnancies, so he thought he’d help," she added. "A more nefarious take is that the doctor wanted to create his own children by the dozens. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between."
'Baby God' premieres on HBO on Wednesday, December 2, at 9/8c. The documentary will be available for streaming on HBO Max.