A fertility doctor who used his own sperm to help unwitting patients get pregnant in the 1970s and 1980s, surrendered his medical license last week and has been barred from ever practicing in the state of Indiana again.
The decision was made by the seven-member state medical board, which also voted to ensure that fertility doctor Donald Cline could never apply for reinstatement. Prior to the vote, Indiana’s Supervising Attorney General Laura Iosue beseeched the board to consider the gravity of Cline’s past actions.
“It’s particularly egregious,” she said, as quoted by the Indianapolis Star. “The important thing is that Dr. Cline doesn’t practice anymore.”
For Matt White, who learned as an adult that the anonymous sperm donor his mother had used turned out to be Cline, her doctor, the punishment was a "small victory." But the victory also felt like "a slap on the wrist" since the doctor has been retired since 2009, he told the Star.
While the exact number of children Cline may have fathered during his career helping couples struggling to conceive is unknown, White told the paper more than three dozen people have been linked to the doctor through commercial ancestry sites such as 23andme.com.
Cline pleaded guilty in December to two counts of obstruction of justice after it was determined he lied to investigators with the state attorney general's office, first saying he did not act as a sperm donor without his patient's knowledge but later admitting he had used his sperm, according to a December story by the Indianapolis Star.
His 365-day sentence was suspended.
Some of the mothers and their (since grown) children would like to see Cline face additional punishment, but there is currently no law in Indiana that would criminalize Cline using his own sperm without patients' knowledge, The New York Times reports.
"I want laws changed, I want medical professionals to be held accountable," Jacoba Ballard, 38, one of Cline's biological daughters, told the Times. "As far as peace of mind? I'll never have that."
Cline's deception was discovered after a complaint was filed with the Indiana attorney general against the doctor by a group of women, including Ballard, who had learned they were half-siblings after they each employed the services of a direct-to-consumer genetic testing website.
They said Cline had allegedly told his clients he would not use the same donor for more than three pregnancies, and used anonymous hospital residents for the donors, the Times said. However, using 23andME, they found eight half siblings, the complaint alleged.
Some of the woman in the case had even been told their own husband's sperm was being used, prosecutors said, according to the Times.
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office told the Times Cline is no longer being investigated by their office.
The children he fathered are now left wondering just how many other children he may have fathered over the years.
“It’s definitely emotional on a lot of different levels, seeing how upset it makes my mom, some of the things that go around in my head, like, ‘Am I the way I am in some respect because he is who he is?’ It plays mind games with you,” White told the Times.