The Fertility Doctor’s Secret Children

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As a fertility doctor in Indiana in the ’80s, Donald Cline helped bring many children into the world, though no one knew he was donating his own sperm to the cause. While this is clearly immoral, as Sarah Zhang reports at The Atlantic, Cline was only prosecuted for obstruction of justice — for attempting to cover up his crimes — because there is no law in Indiana or in many other states that prohibits a physician from using his own sperm in fertility treatment.

The people now sending her messages said they were Cline’s secret biological children. They said their parents had also been treated by Cline. They said that decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination.

According to her DNA, Woock, too, was one of his children.

In the time since Woock’s half siblings got in touch with her, they have broken the news dozens more times. The children Cline fathered with his patients now number at least 48, confirmed by DNA tests from 23andMe or Ancestry.com. (Several have a twin or other siblings who likely share the same biological father but haven’t been tested.) They keep in touch through a Facebook group. New siblings pop up in waves, timed perversely after holidays like Christmas or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when DNA tests are given as well-intentioned gifts.

Like Woock, many of her new siblings learned that they were donor-conceived from a DNA test. (Woock’s parents eventually told her they’d gone to Cline for donor insemination, but they’d had no idea he was the donor.) And in their shock, many also thought the initial messages explaining the situation were part of a scam. But eventually they found news clips laying out that, yes, this doctor deceived his patients, and yes, he used his own sperm, and yes, this is really happening.

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