Indiana fertility doctor fathers 48 children after using his own sperm to inseminate unsuspecting patients without their consent
One of the children, 33-year-old Heather Woock, made the shocking discovery when a stranger called her in August 2017 and claimed to be her half-sibling
A fertility doctor in Indiana who used his own sperm to artificially inseminate his patients without taking their consent has now been confirmed to be the father of at least 48 children, many of whom only recently discovered the truth.
One of the children, 33-year-old Heather Woock, has spoken out about how she finally learned who her father was in a report that was published on March 18 by The Atlantic. Woock, who is from Indianapolis, said that she didn't believe it initially when a stranger called her in August 2017 and claimed to be her half-sibling.
She was, however, pretty disturbed when the mysterious person mentioned Dr. Donald Cline's name, the fertility doctor whom her mother had seen before she was born. Her mother told her not to worry about the issue so she put it away in her mind. The stranger, however, kept messaging her along with several others who also claimed to be her half-siblings, a report in The Atlantic stated.
The half-siblings tracked her down using Facebook through the username she used on Ancestry.com when she created an account for the DNA test her husband gave her for Christmas. Her parents, who had gone to the now 80-year-old Cline for donor insemination, said they had no clue that he was the person who provided the sperm sample. DNA tests from various services including 23andMe and Ancestry.com confirmed that Cline fathered at least 48 children.
The number could very well be a lot higher due to the number of people who still haven't possibly done the DNA test. Many of the half-siblings have since built a community and keep in touch through Facebook.
One of the first people who found out that Cline is their father was Jacoba Ballard. She already knew from a young age that she was conceived through a sperm donor but it wasn't until she was 33 in 2014 that she decided to look for her half-siblings.
Liz White shows a picture of her son Matt White as a newborn. Through DNA tests, Liz says she knows more than 30 mothers who were given Dr Donald Cline’s sperm. pic.twitter.com/kQYx1viD7k— Kelly Reinke (@KellyReinkeTV) January 23, 2019
Ballard signed up to an online forum for adoptees and donor-conceived children and was able to quickly find another woman who was treated by Cline. She told the publication that she knew they were related the moment she saw the Facebook pictures.
She said: "I was like, 'Oh my goodness, I think that is my sister'." Very soon there were four women and they continued their search for their biological father. Cross-matching DNA through public genealogy databases is a technique that is normally used by investigators, but one name kept appearing for the women: Cline.
Ballard and the other ladies were able to track down a woman who shared their DNA who told them that she had a cousin called Donald Cline who practiced medicine in Indianapolis. It was through this woman's help that they were able to find Cline's immediate family who helped them meet the doctor in 2016.
Cline admitted during that family meeting between him and the six half-siblings that he had used his own sperm to inseminate about 50 unwitting patients back in the '70s and '80s. He also told the siblings that the medical records were all destroyed by this time. This admission finally led to a criminal investigation with Cline being charged with lying to investigators about having inseminated the women. He received a one-year suspended sentence in December 2017. No other charges were filed because the state's laws don't specify that fertility doctors can't use their own sperm.
The doctor's conviction wasn't enough for the children who have been left with the uneasy thought of what he did to their mothers. Ballard said that the only silver lining is that she had found and developed a close bond between her and her half-siblings. She also added that the more popular DNA tests become, the more siblings they may find.
Cline apologized for "the pain my actions have caused" but did not specify how often he used his own sperm in procedures. The half-siblings have now reached out to 21 other men and women, who are all in their 30s, who were identified as half-siblings with DNA tests. About half a dozen of them live in central Indiana.
Many of them stay in touch using a private Facebook page, and a few of them gathered for a fall cookout with their spouses, children, and three of the mothers who were Cline's patients. One of the children, Matthew White, said: "It's a very surreal experience. 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."