Fertility Doctor Sued for Inseminating Two- Women with Wrong Sperm Speaks to a Much Bigger Problem!

Two Ottawa families are suing a well-known fertility doctor over allegations his clinic used the wrong sperm during their fertility treatments.

from CTV.ca News Staff (September 14th, 2010)

The above headline struck home with me on a number of levels as it brought back the unpleasant reminders of  my previous marriage, in that the issue of infertility created a black hole of desperation that consumed time, emotions, money and eventually the marriage itself.

The fact that a physician has been sued for “using the wrong sperm” to inseminate two different women also speaks to the  the snake oil tactics employed by a burgeoning industry which seeks to capitalize on the desperation of couples looking to experience the gift and joys of parenting.

Like lawyers, who get paid whether they win the case or not, fertility doctors also get paid – in 1992 the cost was $5,000 per insemination which also included the expensive mind and mood altering drugs my then wife had to take – regardless of whether or not they are successful.

Suffice to say, and after a string of emotional roller-coaster hopes and failures, all that remained was the empty feeling of a life and family that was never to be.

What was most troubling about the experience besides the emotional toll it took, especially on my wife, was the “it is just a matter of time before you are pregnant” disposition demonstrated in the behavior of those involved with the process.  In fact, in one instance the head nurse who was part of the inseminating team turned to the both of us immediately following the procedure and said “congratulations, you are now expecting.”  Of course the elevated mood and hopes quickly dissipated over the following weeks when the anticipated pregnancy turned into a “sorry it didn’t take” medical lecture by the doctor.

After numerous attempts, at $5,000 a pop, the doctor finally suggested that my wife should perhaps be examined more thoroughly through a surgical procedure in which a small incision would be made in her stomach and a camera inserted so that the doctor could get a better look.

We of course agreed and low and behold, the examination revealed that my wife would not be, nor was she ever able to, conceive.  A discovery that would have been helpful to know before we spent both the emotional and financial capital we had to that point in time.

While there are successful outcomes to be certain, the above situation as well as this most recent disclosure of possible malfeasance on the part of the doctor (Dr. Norman Barwin),  speaks to the significant sums of money that are involved in the fertility (or infertility) game, and the possibility of untold riches influencing physician behavior.

If you doubt that, let’s fast forward to my current family situation where both Jennifer and I have been blessed with three beautiful children.

When we had first decided that we would like to have a family, and following months of trying, we thought that it would be a good idea to check with the fertility clinic at the Ottawa General Hospital to make certain that all systems so to speak were a go.

After the perfunctory testing in which I was instructed to leave my sample in an unattended mail-type slot, we met with the doctor who informed us that the tests results were not good and that our likelihood of conception outside the wonders of medical science were remote at best.  You got it, another series of expensive and emotionally consuming procedures was prescribed by the doctor.

Now if I had not gone through the previous experience in which these same types of procedures involving insemination were conducted when there was no physical possibility of pregnancy, I might have jumped at it.

However, because of the previous experience, both Jennifer and I talked and thought that it was perhaps a little too early in the game to take such drastic measures, especially since we had only been trying to conceive for less than a year.

Lo and behold, and three children later – with a possible fourth planned for next year – it would appear that the physician at the Ottawa General was selling hair growth tonic, instead of giving sound medical advice.

Of course, and as is often the case, art does perhaps imitate life as this recent situation brings to mind a Law and Order episode from many years ago.  In Season 5, episode 15 the fertility doctor in the show decided to save money during a down economy and stopped screening donor seamen samples for aides.

At first the investigating officers thought that this was abject carelessness, as exposing his patients to the risk of having a baby with aides by not testing donor samples seemed unfathomable.

Ultimately, investigators discovered that the real reason that the doctor felt confident with bypassing the donor screening process, is that he used his own seaman to impregnate several women.

When confronted by the prosecuting attorney with this revelation, the doctor arrogantly proclaims that “God doesn’t make babies, I make babies.”

Arrogance and greed are indeed a dangerous combination.

By the way, for those Law and Order fans, the episode to which I am referring is appropriately titled “The Seed.”

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