Consumer DNA test users learn physicians replaced donor sperm with their own

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As direct-to-consumer DNA tests become more widely available, it has become a somewhat regular occurrence for users to learn from their results that their biological fathers are fertility specialists who substituted donor sperm with their own, The New York Times reports.

Nacogdoches, Texas, resident Eve Wiley's mother Margo Williams, for one, believed Kim McMorries, MD, had artificially inseminated her with sperm from a donor in California. But when Ms. Wiley took consumer DNA tests in 2017 and 2018, she discovered that Dr. McMorries is her biological father.

"You build your whole life on your genetic identity, and that's the foundation," she told the Times. "But when those bottom bricks have been removed or altered, it can be devastating."

Though Dr. McMorries declined the Times' request for comment, he reportedly admitted in a letter to Ms. Wiley to mixing his own sperm with that of other donors to improve Ms. Williams' chances of conceiving. "The thinking at that time was that if the patient got pregnant, there was no way to know which sperm affected the conception," he wrote.

Other physicians' reasoning for doing so may be more varied: Jody Madeira, PhD, a law professor at Indiana University currently studying more than 20 cases of fertility fraud around the world, told the Times that, while some physicians may have felt they were helping their patients, "I would bet a lot of these doctors had power reasons for doing this — mental health issues, narcissistic issues — or maybe they were attracted to certain women."

In response to countless reports similar to Ms. Wiley's, California, Indiana and Texas have passed fertility fraud laws criminalizing behavior like Dr. McMorries'. The Texas law, passed in June with support from Ms. Wiley, is the most stringent: Per the Times, it classifies inseminating a patient with sperm, eggs or embryos from an unauthorized donor as sexual assault, with those found guilty required to register as sex offenders.

"We're seeing more and more cases of assisted reproduction being used improperly…We need to make sure that what happened doesn't happen again," Texas Rep. Stephanie Klick, a sponsor of the bill, told the Times. "It violates so many different boundaries on a professional level."

Read the full report here.

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