Dr. Donald L. Cline is a 77-year-old physician in Indiana who allegedly is also the potential father to at least 50 children. The latter came to light via a Fox 59 investigation into a series of claims against Cline that landed him in front of a superior court on Monday, facing ” two felony counts of obstruction of justice after telling an investigator that he never inseminated his patients with his own sperm,” all despite records and DNA testing showing a 99.9 percent probability to the contrary.
Cline pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the accusations against him are piling up. Numerous patients connected to Cline used various genealogy sites like Ancestry.com to help “piece together their conception.” The problem for those who reportedly visited Dr. Cline and are not accusing him of misconduct is that they also found that they were related to at 70 of Cline’s relatives, reaching out to some of them on Facebook. This led to a meeting between the doctor and some of the siblings involved in the case, according to the Indianapolis Star, which added more fuel to the allegations:
At that meeting, according to court records, Cline told one of his alleged biological daughters that he felt pressured to use his own sperm when he did not have access to donor sperm. He said he donated sperm about 50 times.
“It was unethical what he did. He was telling his patients one thing and doing another,” one of the siblings told Fox59’s Angela Ganote. “I want to find out as much truth as I can but I know deep down that we never will know the complete truth as to how many siblings we do have.”
No additional criminal charges are expected against Cline, but he may face some hefty civil battles in the coming months. The main takeaway in the reports on Cline’s practices and the accusations against him is the lack of oversight in reproductive medicine. The doctor destroyed records and followed procedures during the period of the complaints that were reportedly by the book:
The Attorney General’s Office, which first investigated Cline, has not filed any formal action against Cline, who retired in 2009.
During the attorney general’s investigation of the complaint, Cline wrote in a January 2015 letter that he received donor sperm from resident doctors and dentists between 1971 and 1981. He said he had a policy not to use a donor for more than three successful pregnancies.
“I can emphatically say that at no time did I ever use my own sample for insemination,” Cline wrote in the letter.
“I followed suggested guidelines of the period,” Cline wrote, according to court records. “I also did nothing morally or legally wrong.”
The Star points out that doctors like Cline couldn’t foresee the introduction of sites like Ancestry and 23andMe that would act as “tattletales” on possible misconduct in the past, even if it was alleged to be “by the book.” Even worse for an already confusing, exhausting, and traumatic case is how it reflects on Cline’s career as a physician. According to the Star, Cline pioneered a technique in 2000 that would “freeze the extra eggs of women undergoing in vitro fertilization, rather than discarding those not used to create embryos.”
Now there’s a shroud over those sort of advancements in fertility. As Wendy Kramer of the Donor Sibling Registry tells the Star, Cline broke no laws because there were no laws to break:
“The reproductive medicine industry in regards to sperm donations…is generally a free-for-all and at the expense of the very children we are creating.”
Cline denies the allegations against him, but the damage is likely done for all parties involved. Now it’s about what will happen next.