The lawsuit accuses Dr. Merle Berger, a former Harvard professor and founder of one of the nation’s largest fertility clinics, of using his own sperm to inseminate a fertility clinic patient, who had been told that she would receive a donation from “a person who did not know her, and whom she did not know.”
A recently-filed federal lawsuit claims that Dr. Merle Berger, a former professor at Harvard Medical School and the founder of one of the nation’s largest fertility clinics, secretly impregnated a patient in 1980, telling her that his sperm had come from an unspecified and anonymous donor.
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiff Sarah Depoian. In her complaint, Depoian says that she and her husband first visited Dr. Berger in 1979 to discuss intrauterine insemination. Berger, then a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive at Harvard, allegedly told Depoain that the sperm would come from an anonymous donor “who resembled her husband, who did not know her, and whom she did not know.”
The artificial insemination was successful, with Depoian’s daughter—Carolyn Bester—born in January 1981.
Earlier this year, though, Bester ordered a home DNA testing kit, the results of which indicated that Berger was almost certainly her biological father.
Adam Wolf, an attorney representing Depoian, said that Berger would necessarily have known that what he did was wrong.
“Some people call this horrific act medical rape, but regardless of what you call it, Dr. Berger’s heinous and intentional misconduct is unethical, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Wolf told reporters during a Wednesday press conference.
However, lawyers for Berger have since insisted that Depoian’s claims are entirely without merit.
“The allegations concern events from over 40 years ago, in the early days of artificial insemination,” said attorney Ian Pinta, who is representing Berger in the claim. “The allegations, which have changed repeatedly in the six months since the plaintiff’s attorney first contacted Dr. Berger, have no legal or factual merit, and will be disproven in court.”
Depoian, now 73 years old, has said that she is struggling to come to terms with Berger’s apparent betrayal of her trust.
“We fully trusted Dr. Berger. He was a medical professional,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine not trusting your own doctor.”
“We never dreamt that he would abuse his position of trust and perpetrate this extreme violation,” she said. “I am struggling to process it.”
The lawsuit suggests that, had Berger’s transgression been detected earlier, the course of his career would likely have taken a very different turn.
“Dr. Berger’s life would have been entirely different had he admitted his assault on Ms. Depoian at the time,” the lawsuit claims. “Dr. Berger went on to become one of the country’s most prominent fertility doctors. HE founded one of the nation’s largest fertility clinics, Boston IVF, and was an Associate Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School.
“He should have known better—and, in fact, did know better—than to abuse a patient.”