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Fertility Fraud Lawyer

Patients in Kentucky and Indiana were the victims of fertility fraud for decades when their doctors used their own sperm in assistive procedures without their informed consent. Surprisingly, fertility fraud was not illegal in either state. Thanks to the national attention these cases have received, fertility fraud is now a crime in Kentucky and Indiana with civil, criminal, and professional consequences.

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The Mayo Clinic reports that 10 to 15 percent of U.S. couples experience infertility. Thanks to modern advances in medicine, infertile couples have a myriad of options available to conceive children, including assisted insemination.

Patients grant their doctors a high level of trust when selecting a course of treatment and undergoing assistive procedures. When doctors violate this trust, the fertility fraud lawyers at Stein Law help clients in Indiana and Kentucky hold these doctors accountable and receive just and fair compensation.

a scientist conducting in-vitro fertilization procedure

What is fertility fraud?

Fertility fraud occurs when a healthcare provider does any of the following:

  • Inseminates patients with his own sperm without their knowledge or consent
  • Misrepresents the source of donor reproductive material, including eggs or sperm
  • Misrepresents to a donor how reproductive material will be used

The most common fertility fraud cases that have made recent headlines are doctors using their own sperm in artificial insemination.

What types of harm does fertility fraud cause?

Healthcare providers have a duty to obtain informed consent prior to performing any medical procedure, including assistive reproduction. Fertility patients have the right to be fully informed about the source and nature of reproductive material used.

Physical Violation

When Liz White discovered she was a victim of fertility fraud, she described the experience as a “virtual rape.” and stated the following: “I think if he said, ‘I’m going to donate my sperm to you,’ I would have, like, been creeped out.”

Jody Madeira, an expert in fertility fraud at Indiana University, explained to WHAS 11 News in Louisville, Kentucky that the doctor turns a clinical setting into a sexual one: “You picture this doctor engaging in a sex act while his patient is waiting for him down the hall.”

According to Ms. Madeira, the violation is beyond physical: “He inserts himself into your family tree, he inserts himself into your body – so it’s not just a physical violation, it’s a genetic violation.”

Violation of the Patient’s Family Preferences

Many couples using assistive reproduction have specific preferences about their donors. They may request a donor that is similar in appearance to the husband or that has other specific characteristics. They are often told that donors undergo stringent genetic testing to screen out donors that carry genes for undesirable traits, such as genetically-linked health conditions.

Risk of Future Complications

When multiple patients are unknowingly inseminated with a single donor’s sperm and live in close proximity to each other, there is a risk that half-siblings, first cousins, and other relatives could marry and reproduce without realizing they are related.

How is fertility fraud discovered?

Many of the cases of fertility fraud that are being discovered today occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, before the advent of commercial DNA testing. These doctors may have believed their activities were undiscoverable. DNA testing services like Ancestry.com and 23andme have changed that.

These services are responsible for fertility fraud coming to light. DNA testing is the only way to confirm fertility fraud took place. However, it may also require some detective work. Doctors who commit fertility fraud, as well as their families, are unlikely to appear in commercial DNA services or have public profiles.

Stein Law can help you determine whether you have any matches that are related to fertility doctors.

Fertility Fraud in Indiana

Indiana was the first state to enact specific legislation against fertility fraud. The legislation came about in response to the discovery of the high-profile fertility fraud cases against Dr. Donald Cline.

Dr. Donald Cline

Dr. Donald Cline was a prolific fertility doctor in Indianapolis who was considered one of the best, during the 1970s and 1980s. Unbeknownst to some of his patients, he was inseminating them with his own sperm.

This became known after one of his biological children took a commercial DNA test and discovered she had a large number of siblings. She has discovered 94 siblings so far. As these siblings were located, Dr.Cline’s pattern of deception came to the forefront:

He assured patients the donors were anonymous medical residents from across the street and insisted patients pay in cash to protect the donors’ anonymity.

The fertility fraud committed by Dr. Cline is the subject of the popular Netflix documentary Our Father. As shocking as Dr. Cline’s conduct was, there were no laws in place that allowed him to face criminal prosecution or civil liability for his actions. That has changed thanks to the efforts of some of his biological children.

Indiana Fertility Fraud Law

Indiana passed its fertility fraud law, § 1.IC3 4-11-2-15 in 2019 to provide criminal and civil penalties for fertility fraud. The law makes fertility fraud a Level 6 felony, which carries a punishment of imprisonment for six months to two-and-a-half years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Who can file a fertility fraud lawsuit in Indiana?

The following parties may file a civil lawsuit against a doctor who has committed fertility fraud and against the facility that employed the doctor:

  • The patient
  • The spouse (or surviving spouse) of the patient
  • The offspring of the doctor who used his own sperm
  • A sperm or egg donor whose reproductive material was used in any manner without the donor’s consent

Each victim is entitled to file a separate cause of action.

How much compensation can I recover in my Indiana fertility fraud case?

The amount of compensation you recover will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Factors that determine compensation include the following:

  • The type of fraud
  • Your relationship to the patient
  • Your losses

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the monetary costs associated with the fraud and include the following:

  • The cost of treatment
  • Your attorney’s fees
  • Liquidated damages of $10,000

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the non-monetary, subjective losses you have incurred as a result of the doctor’s actions and include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are awarded as a punishment and deterrent against a defendant and are not considered compensatory. IC 34-51-3-4 limits punitive damages to the greater of $50,000 or three times the compensatory amount awarded. Under IC 34-51-3-6, the treasurer of the state collects 75 percent of the punitive damages and deposits it into the crime victims’ compensation fund. The victim receives the remaining 25 percent.

How much time do I have to file a civil action for fertility fraud in Indiana?

The statute of limitations to file an action for fertility fraud is ten years after the eighteenth birthday of the child, or, if not applicable, 20 years after the procedure was performed. The discovery rule provides an exception, in which the time limit is extended to five years after the discovery of the offense.

While this may seem like sufficient time, obtaining medical records, investigating, and building a case can take a substantial amount of time. Contact a fertility fraud attorney as early as possible to help ensure your case is ready to file well ahead of the deadline.

Fertility Fraud in Kentucky

The recent discovery of fertility fraud by a patient of Dr. Marvin Yussman in 1975 has captured the attention of legislators in Kentucky. The patient’s daughter learned through a commercial DNA test that she has seven half-siblings, and Dr. Yussman is the father.

Dr. Yussman, who is now retired from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has admitted to using his own sperm “about a half a dozen times.” However, he already has more than a half-dozen confirmed children, and there could be more. He has also alleged that his business partners engaged in the same fraudulent practices. At the time this was discovered, Kentucky law provided for no criminal or civil penalties for fertility fraud.

in-vitro fertilization equipments

Kentucky Fertility Fraud Bill

Governor Beshear has signed the fertility fraud bill into law, and it takes effect on July 13, 2022. The new law designates fertility fraud as a Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for a period of one to five years, according to § 532.060. It also provides civil remedies for victims. Under this new law, Stein Law filed the first fertility fraud case ever in the state of Kentucky.

Who can file a civil action?

The following parties are eligible to file a lawsuit against a doctor who has engaged in fertility fraud, and against the employing institution:

  • The patient
  • The surviving spouse or partner listed on the birth certificate
  • The offspring
  • A donor whose material was used in a manner not agreed upon

How much is my Kentucky fertility fraud case worth?

The value of your civil claim will be determined by the harm you experienced as a result of the fraud. Compensatory damages available in Kentucky are similar to those available in Indiana and include the following:

  • Reimbursement for the costs of the fertility treatment
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Liquidated damages of $10,000
  • Non-economic damages

Punitive Damages are also available, but unlike Indiana, Kentucky does not impose limits on punitive damages, and all punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff rather than split with the state.

How long do I have to file a Kentucky fertility fraud lawsuit?

The statute of limitations to file a fertility fraud lawsuit in Kentucky is five years after the 18th birthday of the offspring, or five years after the victim discovers the conduct through DNA testing, the victim becomes aware of a record that provides evidence against the defendant, or the defendant confesses to the offense, whichever occurs first.

The stein law team picture

How can Stein Law help me with my fertility fraud case?

If you suspect or have confirmed that your fertility doctor used his own reproductive material during your fertility procedure or if you are the spouse, surviving spouse, or offspring of the patient, our law firm can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for this egregious violation against your family.

With over 75 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Stein Law know how to get results. Our clients receive compassionate, personalized service. Below are a few examples of what our clients say about our services:

Kanika Stout
Kanika Stout
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The attorneys at Stein Law went above and beyond for our family. Our particular lawyer Amy Wheatley had an abundance of knowledge, along with experience that was very refreshing. Thank you again
Shelly Brandenburg
Shelly Brandenburg
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Amy Stein is amazing!!! She was very professional and compassionate. She treated us like family. She is the best. I would definitely recommend Stein Law.
Hemb
Hemb
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I ended up getting hurt on Christmas Day picking up last minute gift cards at a store and spent the day in the hospital. Amy and the whole office I dealt with were more than kind and professional to work with and got me a very fair settlement. Highly recommend.

In addition to our locations in New Albany and Clarksville, we have opened a satellite office in Louisville so we can provide quality representation and advocacy to clients in both Indiana and Kentucky.

We offer a contingency fee arrangement, so there are no upfront fees to use our services. Fertility fraud is a grievous act, and we are dedicated to holding these perpetrators accountable. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.