All this came to light after Ashley, Jeff, and Paula decided to have their DNA tested at 23andMe. The DNA results revealed that Jeff and Ashley were not related (which was subsequently confirmed by a traditional paternity test). Ashley then underwent DNA testing at both Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA and at the latter company was found to be a DNA match to a predicted 2nd cousin, "Cheryl". Cheryl indicated that her 1st cousin, Tom Lippert, had also lived in Salt Lake City and had mentioned to the family that he was a sperm donor. Although Jeff's sperm should have been used by the clinic, it appears that Tom had instead swapped it for his, and so was Ashley's biological father. Tom is now dead and the fertility clinic is no longer in business.
Do go ahead and read CeCe's full article, Artificial Insemination Nightmare Revealed by DNA Test. It outlines how both Paula's family and Tom's family (his widow and cousin Cheryl) have worked through this together and wanted to make the story public, as this may have happened to others who attended the same clinic. They all seem like truly amazing people with the way they have dealt with this nightmarish situation. They have set up a website for inquiries for couples who wonder or suspect that they could have been one of Tom Lippert's victims. Although the University of Utah acknowledged that Thomas Lippert was a "popular donor", they have been unable or unwilling to supply his donor number, and unfortunately have declined to contact families who used the clinic during the years that Tom worked there to inform them of this sad situation. Despite everything, Jeff, Paula, and Ashley are glad that they know the truth, and they still support the use of DNA testing for genealogy.
In the article and comments, there were links to other interesting cases, which highlight the implications and the importance of children to be able to find out about their biological parents:
- Medical Ethics – When Doctor Is Donor - Without Telling The Patient (article from 1992): Dr. Cecil Jacobson was an infertility doctor, without revealing to the patients that he was also the sperm donor and apparently fathered about 75 children this way, in addition to having 7 children of his own.
- British Scientist 'Fathered 600 Children' by Donating Sperm at his Own Fertility Clinic (article from 2012): British scientist Bertold Wiesner set up the Barton clinic in London with his wife Mary Barton in the 1940s promising to provide sperm donors from ‘intelligent stock’. He may have fathered up to 600 children. His wife Mary Barton later destroyed medical records, so most individuals who were conceived there have no idea what happened. Wiesner died in 1972 and his wife in ~2000. Some of his offspring have discovered the identity of their biological father through DNA testing. This is even worse than the 533 children born to Vince Vaughn's character in the fictional movie The Delivery Man.
- Parted-at-Birth Twins 'Married' (article from 2008): "A pair of twins who were adopted by separate families as babies got married without knowing they were brother and sister."
- See CeCe Moore's posting Artificial Insemination Story Covered on Salt Lake City KUTV CBS Affiliate and University of Utah Releases a Statement (9 January 2014). Don't miss her link to the video of the initial coverage by KUTV.
- "Ashley", "Paula", and "Jeff" (Annie, Pam, and John Branum) were interviewed on CBS on 14 January 2014: video at Family discovers fertility fraud 20 years later: "It almost seems surreal".
Recommendations and Recommended Reading
- Line over a Letter – I hadn't heard of this before, but if there is a line over a letter in a handwritten record, apparently it usually means a double letter. An example is shown in this brief posting.
- X-Chromosome Matching at Family Tree DNA (Roberta Estes) – FTDNA is now showing X-chromosome matching. This blog posting shows where and how to check your X-chromosome matches.
- If you have tested at Family Tree DNA, there is a really excellent series of free webinars – see January Schedule and December Recordings – a slight update from this posting is that yesterday's presentation, Family Tree DNA Feature Launch: X Chromosome Matches in Family Finder, is now available as a recording (free registration Here).