Women seeking fertility treatments of any kind deserve to be fully informed of what is going on with their bodies and treatments. Seems like basic logic, right? Surprisingly, no laws exist surrounding a certain aspect of being a sperm donor; it is technically not illegal for a doctor to donate their own sperm to a patient without informing them. Does this raise a variety of moral red flags, suggesting that there should perhaps be a law against such an act? Of course! Which is why Indiana lawmakers have recently proposed a law against sperm donor fraud.
We’ll break it down for you as follows:
Indiana proposes this bill in response to a home-grown sperm donor fraud, Dr. Donald L. Cline. Dr. Cline, a fertility doctor responsible for insemination of sperm donation, was found to be genetically related to the daughter of one of his clients. Having told his patients that all sperm was donated by anonymous medical students - sperm that was not told to not be used for more than any three couples’ insemination - Cline commited the then-technically-legal act of donor fraud. Once he ran out of donated sperm, Dr. Cline used his own sperm to inseminate his patients more than 50 times.
There is no estimate on how many biological children Dr. Cline has because of his fraudulent acts. This type of act was a common practice prior to advancements in the capability for DNA testing; women who used a sperm donor realistically had no ability to find out who their donor was. Because this technically wasn’t illegal, all Dr. Cline was charged with was obstruction of justice because he did not tell the truth about his actions. This led to a true epidemic of learning that doctors were the biological parents of their patients’ children, leading to an array of moral and ethical issues.
Is what Dr. Cline did any bit ethical? In the eyes of most people, not really. Is it legal? Technically yes. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Cline was fulfilling his duty of inseminating his patients with donor sperm of some type, that they agreed to receive from anonymous medical students. As far as sperm donation goes, many parents favor sperm from men with good genes: healthy, intelligent men. It can be assumed that Dr. Cline’s sperm was of similar desirability as the anonymous sperm from donor medical students, therefore (in a rather uncomfortable way) he did his job.
But some would argue that as a fertility doctor, Dr. Cline is held to a higher standard that that. Full transparency should be delivered to his patients, even if it meant using his own sperm. Morally, this creates a dilemma in the sperm not being truly anonymous in the eyes of Dr. Cline while it was still anonymous in the eyes of his patients.
No matter how you shape and frame the moral and ethical dilemmas of Dr. Cline sperm donor fraud, there’s something that inherently feels very wrong about what was done. In order to protect future patients across Indiana from this type of fraud, lawmakers look to create policy against it.
Indiana senators Roderick Bray and Michael Delph have proposed Senate Bill 239 that would make it a felony for doctors to use his own sperm to inseminate a patient without the patient’s consent. It additionally makes it illegal for a doctor to use her own eggs in the same manner for the sake of equality, even though it is not as big of an issue due to the extensive effort and amount of medical steps required to donate eggs.
Not only does the bill make the act a felony, but protects the civil claims for sperm donor fraud as well, allowing victims of donor fraud to collect actual or liquidated damages of $10,000. Additionally, the statute of limitations for such cases is addressed so that victims have ample time to take legal - from a criminal or civil court - action in cases of sperm donor fraud. As one portion of the proposed statute of limitations, victims have five years from the day they discover with sufficient evidence that this type of donor fraud had occurred, among other limitations and scenarios. This type of statute of limitations is vital because the statutes of limitations in many medical malpractice cases often bar victims from receiving the justice they deserve.
As a whole, the proposed bill draws a clear line in the sand regarding what is acceptable, though it seems that this type of act is ethically unacceptable without such a bill being passed. In order to protect the rights of victims of doctors like Dr. Cline, it’s a great move more Indiana to push this bill forward.