WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With the holiday gift-giving season just weeks away, families should be prepared for potentially major shock waves if there are home DNA test kits under the Christmas tree, according to Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway’s Adam Wolf, a leading U.S. lawyer handling fertility, IVF, and related genetic material lawsuits. Wolf said the new HBO documentary “Baby God” out this week illustrates what could be right around the corner for hundreds or even thousands of American families.
In September, Peiffer Wolf filed “fertility fraud” cases on behalf of multiple families against doctors in California and Virginia/West Virginia. At the time, Wolf warned “the United States is on the brink of uncovering thousands of fertility fraud cases, in which IVF/Ob Gyn doctors have abused their position of trust and authority by secretly using their own sperm in carrying out fertility treatments.”
The new HBO documentary outlines the case of one fertility doctor’s abuses and notes that many more medical professionals have committed such transgressions around the nation.
In the last six years, attorney Adam Wolf has handled hundreds of cases regarding IVF/genetic material that have involved well over 1,000 victims. He said: “HBO deserves credit for helping to bring to light the abuses and shocking violations of trust that have occurred during the Wild West days of the fertility industry. ‘Baby God’ documents what we see and hear every day in our office from the victims of fertility fraud. Sadly, the coming holiday season will bring home DNA results with unpleasant surprises and life-changing consequences for families across America.”
What should you do if you think you might be the victim of fertility fraud? Wolf outlined these six key questions and answers:
Question 1: Who is at greatest risk of fertility fraud? Is this still going on today?
Answer: Most instances of fertility fraud happened between the late 1970s and 1990. This was the period when inseminations became more common, but before at-home DNA testing was on the horizon. Thus, some unscrupulous fertility doctors thought that they could insert their own sperm into their patients without being caught. That is why most child victims who discover fertility fraud are 30 years of age or older today.
Question 2: If I get home DNA test results back, how would I know if I had a problem like this? What should I look for?
Answer: In the typical fertility fraud case, an adult learns that he or she has different paternal genetic relations and/or unexpected half-genetic siblings. In some cases, their half-siblings have the fertility doctor’s last name; in others, half-genetic siblings discover that their parents all sought treatment from the same physician.
Question 3: What if I need help interpreting the DNA test results?
Answer: Some of our clients used a genealogist to reveal a genetic relationship to the physician. Do your research and make sure you hire a reputable expert.
Question 4: What can victims of fertility fraud do?
Answer: Doctor-conceived individuals and their parents have sought accountability through a number of routes, often with the assistance of an attorney. The options can include pursuing a private legal settlement, filing a civil tort suit, speaking with journalists and other media personalities, seeking legislative reform, filing a complaint with a state medical board, and reporting the physician to a prosecutor’s office.
Question 5: At what point do I talk to an attorney? What is involved in that process?
Answer: If you discover concerning results from a home DNA test kit, you should immediately contact an attorney who is experienced with fertility fraud matters. An experienced fertility fraud attorney can help you understand the implications of your test kit results and navigate your legal options.
Question 6: Isn’t the fertility industry highly regulated?
Answer: No. The US fertility industry has fewer regulations than barber shops or nail salons. Without common-sense regulation, the “Wild West” nature of the multibillion-dollar fertility industry leaves the door open for instances of fertility fraud and other fertility clinic disasters, like those recently experienced in Cleveland and San Francisco. However, doctors who inserted their own sperm into their patients—without their consent—violated their patients. And they violated the law. Patients can file civil lawsuits against their physicians for this misconduct. Some states have criminalized the act of a doctor using his own sperm to impregnate his patients without their explicit consent. But there’s no federal law that prohibits fertility fraud.
In August 2019, Peiffer Wolf published The Fertility Center Regulation Crisis in the U.S., a report calling on Congress to impose a system of tight and highly transparent IVF clinic oversight. In addition to identifying several glaring weaknesses and the general lack of regulatory oversight of the IVF/fertility centers in the U.S., the Peiffer Wolf report identified the much tougher government standards in the United Kingdom as an excellent model for this nation.
ABOUT PEIFFER WOLF CARR KANE & CONWAY
The law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway maintains offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Austin, and New Orleans. In addition to handling numerous fertility fraud cases, Peiffer Wolf has handled a multitude of cases in which medical professionals and facilities were accused of either destroying or losing eggs, embryos and other genetic material.