Fertility doctor accused of impregnating women with own sperm


OTTAWA — A law firm pursuing a class-action suit against a former Ottawa fertility doctor says it has evidence indicating he fathered 11 children by impregnating patients with his own sperm.

Two years ago, an Ottawa family filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Dr. Norman Barwin, alleging he is the biological father of their daughter, now an adult.

In a statement, law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne says DNA investigation now shows Barwin is the biological father in 11 cases where the intention was to use the sperm of the male of the couple or, in other cases, a specific anonymous sperm donor.

The firm says it has also become aware of at least another 16 individuals conceived through Barwin's practice who are not a biological match to the intended father.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen says these kinds of stories don’t happen very often in Canada.

“The good news is that this is incredibly rare, “ says Cohen, founder of Fertility Law Canada at D2Law LLP.

“I feel very confident in the quality of our fertility medicine and the ethics of those who work in the area in Canada. But it does happen,” she acknowledges.

“For people who are worried about this kind of thing, I would assure them that technology has changed so much that no one is going to get away with this anymore.”

With the help of DNA testing, says Cohen “people will not be left wondering where the gametes are actually from.”

“If the accusations are proven, it’s certainly awful and concerning, but I do hope that people take comfort in how rare this is, and that people aren’t going to get away with it because technology will catch them every time,” she says.

“In terms of legal remedies, there are several possibilities. For example, someone could say this is a tort of battery. If a woman agrees to be inseminated with certain sperm and different sperm is used, she didn’t agree to that. There could very well be a claim of a tort of battery against the doctor.”

She said an argument could also be made that switching sperm could constitute a criminal offence.

Cohen points out that Canada does not have a donor registry to keep track of certain information about donors.

“We don’t have one yet, so we don’t know if it will include health information or identifying information, but that’s the kind of thing we need to make sure that we’re carefully monitoring the conception of these children,” she says.

None of the allegations against Barwin has been proven in court.

Karen Hamway, a lawyer for Barwin, had no comment on the latest accusations.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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