Fertility Doc Accused of Using Own Sperm to Impregnate Patient

Woman says she would not have agreed to procedure had she known
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2023 1:00 AM CST
Well-Known Fertility Doctor Accused of Impregnating Patient With His Sperm
In this undated handout photo, Sarah Depoian poses with her daughter, Carolyn Bester.   (Photo provided by Sarah Depoian via AP)

A Maine woman is suing her former fertility doctor, alleging the former Harvard Medical School professor impregnated her using his own sperm instead of sperm from the donor he'd promised. Sarah Depoian says Dr. Merle Berger, one of the founders of Boston IVF, treated her in 1980 and said he could use sperm from a medical resident who looked similar to Depoian's husband—but whom the couple did not know. (Prior to the days of sperm banks, such a practice was not uncommon, a bioethics expert tells CBS News.) Depoian gave birth to a baby girl in 1981 after the intrauterine insemination procedure, NBC Boston reports.

Decades later, her daughter learned, thanks to Ancestry.com and a 23andMe DNA test, that the man who raised her was not her biological father, and that Berger likely was, the lawsuit says. (Depoian says Berger instructed her not to tell anyone, including her daughter, about the procedure.) "The allegations concern events from over 40 years ago, in the early days of artificial insemination. At a time before sperm banks and IVF, it was dramatically different from modern-day fertility treatment," Berger's lawyer says in a statement in which he also says the allegations "have no legal or factual merit."

In its own statement, Boston IVF, from which Berger retired in 2020, assures patients: "We wish to highlight that the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility is much different than it was decades ago, and the safety measures and safeguards currently in place would make such allegations virtually impossible nowadays." (More IVF stories.)

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