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The new documentary from Netflix, Our Father, is an investigative look into the life of Dr. Donald Cline. He was a fertility doctor who used his own sperm, leading him to father children throughout the ’70s and ’80s while his patients at the time had no knowledge he was doing so. With the availability of DNA testing today, it’s been determined that Cline fathered at least 94 children and counting.
When Jacoba Ballard, who was an only child conceived through sperm donation, decided to take a DNA test, she never expected it to tell her she had seven half-siblings. That goes far beyond what would be normal from typical sperm donation, and she worked with her newly found relatives to learn more about the family tree they all came from. Pursuing justice for themselves and others became very important to Jacoba and some of her half-siblings, because none of the parents knew Cline was using his own sperm for insemination.
The documentary may dramatize the issue or fictionalize some scenes, but the overall plot is an accurate one. Cline opened his fertility clinic in Indiana in 1979, and told the women who came to him for artificial insemination that the sperm donations were from medical residents. There wasn’t any law against what Cline did at the time, and he retired from practicing medicine in 2009. That made getting justice more difficult.
But Cline was convicted on two counts of felony obstruction in 2017, for lying to investigators about the issue of where the sperm came from. In 2018, he surrendered his medical license, and will never be allowed to reinstate it. He was given a one-year suspended sentence for the obstruction charges, and there were no other charges brought against him. What he did wasn’t technically breaking the law, though many agree that it was unethical. Cline is now in his 80s, and Indiana made the practice of medical doctors using their own sperm for insemination purposes illegal in 2019.
If you plan to create or add to your family with Assisted Reproductive Technology, a skilled attorney can help protect your legal rights – and the rights of your child. To learn more, contact us today!