Dozens of families in the Netherlands have been shocked to learn that their children, conceived with artificial insemination, were fathered by their doctor, Dutch fertility specialist and gynaecologist Dr Jan Wildschut (82).
Wildschut was found to have fathered at least 17 kids between 1981 and 1993 – but expectant mothers had been told that the sperm would come from anonymous donors. Wildschut was considered a pioneer of modern artificial insemination, and he took his secret with him to the grave in 2009.
Evidence of his misdeeds surfaced last year when one of the donor children went in search of their biological father, Dutch newspaper De Stentor reports.
The donor child had their DNA tested at a firm that specialises in reconnecting people with long-lost relatives, and was matched with a niece of Wildschut’s and subsequently with 16 other people.
“Dr Wildschut made a friendly, committed and honest impression on us, both in the preliminary phase and during the treatment,” one of the parents told De Stentor. “We never had any suspicion that he himself could have been the donor.”
While unseemly, no laws were broken by Wildschut, because, at the time, artificial insemination was such a new medical technique.
According to Isala Hospital, where the doctor worked, “this case took place at a time when there were no laws or regulations governing fertility treatments”.
The Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, which usually probes cases of this nature, has decided not to investigate, but the hospital was ordered to contact the doctor’s legitimate children as well as the donor children and their families.
“From a moral point of view, Isala finds it unacceptable that a gynaecologist specialising in fertility was both a practitioner and a sperm donor.” The hospital said it had an obligation to notify the donor children and families as it there could potentially be “birth defects in children from relationships between half-brothers and -sisters, who do not know each other or that they have the same biological father”.
“We feel responsible and that determines how we deal with this now,” says Isala director Ina Kuper. “The parents are very happy with their children. But there are also mixed feelings for them. They realise now that the treatment they received was not morally correct.”
This is the second case of this nature in the Netherlands. It was revealed last year that Dr Jan Karbaat (89), who is also dead, used his sperm to father 49 children with unknowing patients.
The clinic at which he worked has shut down.
“It has now become clear to us that fertility doctors were unable to monitor each other properly and the profession has failed for years,” says Ties van der Meer of Stichting Donorkind, an organisation which also offers services to those in search of their biological parents.
SOURCES: ISALA.NL, FIOM.NL, NLTIMES.NL, HLN.BE, ZEIT.DE, DAILYMAIL.CO.UK