A Fertility Doctor Allegedly Fathered 11 Kids With His Patients
A class-action lawsuit alleges that a Canadian fertility doctor secretly used his sperm on at least 11 patients.
A well-regarded fertility doctor in Canada used his own sperm to father 11 children, possibly more, over the course of decades, according to a class-action lawsuit.
The complaint filed in Ottawa, Canada, alleges that the doctor, Norman Barwin, had agreed to use an anonymous donor's sperm in some cases, or samples from one member of the couple in others, but instead used his own. Recent DNA tests show that, as a result, Barwin is allegedly the biological father of the 11 children.
In other cases, according to the complaint, Barwin treated 16 women who had chosen intended fathers and later gave birth to children who are not biological matches for those men. Their biological fathers are unknown, according to the complaint. The inseminations referenced in the lawsuit date from the 1970s to the early 2000s.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2016 but was granted class-action status this month, meaning attorneys believe more people may have been affected by Barwin's alleged actions.
Some sperm samples entrusted to Barwin throughout his career became contaminated with other sperm, making them unusable, according to the complaint. He admitted to mistakenly mixing up vials of sperm in a hearing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in 2016.
Barwin's accomplishment in his field at one point earned him the nickname "the Baby God." He had been inducted into the Order of Canada, the nation's second-highest civilian honor, and served as president of the Canadian Fertility Society.
But he lost the Order of Canada in 2013 after pleading guilty to professional misconduct at a hearing with the College Of Physicians, which barred him from practicing medicine for two months. He gave up his medical license in 2014.
Barwin's attorneys did not immediately respond to request for comment. But after the 2013 hearing, Barwin expressed regret for his actions.
"I regret I've caused my patients any difficulty," he said. "My intention was always to do my best for them."
"There's an immense breach of trust," Peter Cronyn, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, told CBC. "Women that we've talked to who went to see him speak of terms like 'violation.'"
The legal action started to unfold when one family — Rebecca Dixon and her parents Davina and Daniel — alleged that Barwin was the biological father. From there, the case has grown.
Kat Palmer, who was also conceived under Barwin's treatment, said in the lawsuit that she received an email from Barwin in 2015 confirming that he was her biological father. Dixon, also conceived under Barwin's treatment, said that her genetic test results match Palmer's, indicating the fertility doctor was also her biological father.
"I now have 10 siblings," Dixon told CBC.
Ottawa law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne said it is developing methods for people potentially affected by Barwin to determine who their biological fathers are and any half-siblings they may have.
The law firm says it has been in contact with more than 150 patients who "have been adversely affected by Dr. Barwin’s fertility practice going back as far as 1978."
Nelligan O'Brien Payne declined to comment further on the case.