The fertility doctor who impregnated a patient – and the ethics of procreation

Denver, Colo., Apr 6, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A woman who discovered that her biological father is the fertility doctor who helped her mother conceive has filed a lawsuit against him. A leading bioethicist says the case points to the risk of devastation posed by artificial methods of conception.

Like a lot of people, Kelli Rowlette had a DNA sample analyzed through a genealogy website, to learn more about her her family’s heritage.

When she received results from the DNA testing, Rowlette discovered something that she was not expecting.

Rowlette discovered that her biological father was actually a fertility doctor who had treated her parents, who apparently used his own sperm to impregnate her mother without her consent, according to a report from NPR.

The doctor, Gerald Mortimer, had consulted with Rowlette’s parents when they were having trouble conceiving in 1980. Mortimer said Rowlette’s mother, Sally Ashby, had a tipped uterus, and diagnosed Ashby’s husband, Howard Fowler, with a low sperm count and low sperm motility.

Mortimer proposed that he artificially inseminate Ashby with a mixture of sperm from Fowler and a donor. Fowler and Ashby agreed, on the condition that the donor was a university student with similar features to Fowler.  

Mortimer is now alleged to have inseminated Ashby with his own sperm, without the couple’s knowledge or consent.

Upon discovering the deception, Rowlette recently filed a lawsuit against Mortimer and his wife, asking $10 million in damages for medical negligence, fraud, battery, and other charges.

In the lawsuit, Rowlette’s parents remarked that they would not have gone through with the fertility treatments had they known that Mortimer would use his own sperm in the procedure.  
The complaint said that Rowlette, Ashby, and Fowler have all “been suffering immeasurably” since this discovery.

While Rowlette’s situation may be unusual, Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center told CNA that stories like these point to the moral problems connected to IFV and similar fertility procedures.  

According to Pacholczyk, when procreation is separated from the “exclusivity between spouses,” it invites abuses and violations of dignity and privacy that can lead to devastating results for parents and children alike, as seen in Rowlette’s case.

Pacholczyk is an ethicist and the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, an organization which conducts research, consultation, publishing and education to promote human dignity in health care and life sciences.

In order to “afford protection, knowledge of our origins, and the safety of the home hearth,” Pacholczyk said that procreation should be left between the intimacy of a husband and wife.

“The procreation of children speaks to us of a real exclusivity between spouses, and when we violate that exclusivity by hiring outsiders to produce our offspring in clinics, or engage strangers to provide their sex cells for these procedures, we do so at our own peril and that of our children,” Pacholczyk said.

“The Lord’s teaching that life should be engendered only within that exclusive martial embrace of husband and wife is a teaching that, regrettably, is no longer widely understood or acknowledged today.”

 

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