·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Fertility Doctor Fathers 49 Children, Some Just Finding Out

— May 8, 2019

Dutch fertility doctor, not deceased, fathered at least 49 children and some of his offspring are still finding out.

Dutch fertility doctor Jan Karbaat used his own sperm to inseminate at least 49 women and may have even more children, new DNA evidence shows.  Tests have confirmed the physician who referred to himself as “a pioneer in the field of fertilization” in fact fathered 49 children.  He was taken in on charges in 2017 and pass away later that year at the age of 89.

Ties van der Meer of the Dutch Donor Child Foundation, who is still being contacted by individuals believing they are victims of Karbaat, said, “Of course, what this doctor did isn’t great.  For my parents and the parents of my siblings, it’s of course terrible.  They were lied to and it’s the doctor who treated them — that’s wrong.  But for me, I wouldn’t have been here without the donor.”

The case of Dr. Karbaat involved a whole slew of unethical behavior, including tampering, privacy issues, DNA testing, and the rights of children to know who their parents are.  Before learning about Karbaat, one victim, Martijn Van Halen, already knew he had a large extended family, having checked an American DNA database for matches two years ago after learning from the man who raised him — who he thought was his father — that he was a donor child.

Fertility Doctor Fathers 49 Children, Some Just Finding Out
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

“Within a few weeks, I found out…I had 25 siblings, half-siblings,” he said.  A few months later, a Dutch agency made a DNA profile of one of Karbaat’s sons, and the Rotterdam District Court ordered the profile to be made available to parents and children who suspected that they may be tied to Karbaat’s misconduct.

As far as Van Halen now knows, “it’s 36 sisters and 12 brothers and there are still a few that want to remain anonymous.”  Most of the Karbaat children are adults now and many have children of their own.

Van Halen said he and his half-siblings, interestingly, have a lot in common.  “They’re strangers, but you see…so many resemblances.  So, we’ve got the same nose, eyes, teeth,” he said. “That’s really strange. It felt directly as if we already knew each other a long time.”

There had also been some reference on Karbaat’s part to taking his “product” to the United States.  Those involved in the donor process are not clear what the late doctor meant by this and where in the U.S. he would have visited.  Meanwhile, dozens of people who now know who their biological father is are struggling to come to terms with what occurred.  They are happy to at least have some closure.

“We are all happy with the clarity and the information we now have, so we can get on with our lives,” said Joey Hoofdman, 32, one of the people fathered by Karbaat, adding, “It is a wave of emotions.  We are all happy we have met each other, but because there are so many, it is complicated.”

Hoofdman said he will now seek compensation.  He said his mother went to the clinic for a fertility treatment with the sperm of her partner, the man who raised Hoofdman as his son.

The Dutch branch of child rights group Defense for Childrenwelcomed the clarity that DNA testing offered and said it is “a first step toward allowing all children of anonymous donors to seek out and find their heritage.”

“The Karbaat case is the first enormous breakthrough,” said Iara de Witte, an adviser to the group.


Dutch fertility doctor used own sperm to father 49 children, DNA tests show

Fertility ‘Pioneer’ Fathered 49; Opioid-Sex Swap? Doc’s Role in N.Y. Sex Cult

Dutch fertility doctor may have more than 49 children

Join the conversation!