What does it tell us that so many doctors used their own sperm?

A doctor using his own sperm to inseminate a patient used to be headline news. Now we've heard of dozens. What does it tell us that so many doctors did this?

It's hard to believe it was just five years ago that I broke the story that Norman Barwin, a beloved Canadian doctor, had (allegedly) used his own sperm to inseminate several  patients. Barwin was not the first to be outed for this, but, looking back, he was on the early side of what has become quite a trend.

According to Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University, close to 50 doctors have now been implicated. They come from multiple countries and their wrongdoings span decades. It's no longer possible to think of these doctors as lone wolves.

It has made me reflect: what does it tell us that this behaviour was so widespread?

2 minute read

What does it tell us that so many doctors used their own sperm?

that they thought they wouldn't get caught

that when they thought they wouldn't get caught, they did things they wouldn't ordinarily do

that when they thought they wouldn't get caught, they did things that were otherwise unthinkable

that the threat of getting caught is more important than we thought

that the threat of getting caught is more important than we think

that they thought they knew best

that they thought you'd rather have a baby — no matter what

that they thought they didn't have to ask you if that was true

that they thought it was okay to substitute their decision for yours

that they thought it was okay to not tell you they were making your decision for you

that they thought it was okay to deceive you

that they thought what you didn't know couldn't hurt you

that deceiving you felt better than disappointing you

that deceiving you felt better than having you be disappointed in them

that some doctors have trouble accepting failure

that some doctors will go quite a distance to avoid being seen as failures

that some doctors would rather lie than admit failure

that some doctors would rather contravene standards of care than admit failure

that some doctors can convince themselves that lying and deceiving is not failure

that they can keep their lies secret for decades

that they can keep lying about their lies even after DNA evidence says otherwise

that they would rather stay silent than admit wrongdoing

that they would rather stay silent than apologize

that they may not feel remorse

that some doctors masturbate in their offices 

that some doctors masturbate in their offices while their patients wait in nearby rooms

that some doctors masturbate in their offices then carry on as though everything is normal

that at least some other doctors probably knew

that those other doctors chose to stay silent rather than out a medical colleague

that self-regulation may not work

 

that they didn't think about what this might mean for their own families

that they didn't think about what this might mean for their own kids

that they didn't think about what this might mean for the people born as a result

that they didn't think about what this might mean for their patients

that they didn't think about what this might mean for all patients everywhere

that they didn't think about what this might mean for their honest colleagues 

that they didn't think about what this might mean

that if they can deceive you about this, they might be willing to deceive you about other things

that if they can't be trusted about this, they can't really be trusted about anything

that the worst thing you can imagine happening — anything — could actually have happened

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Related links

Alison Motluk. "Uncommon ancestry." Hazlitt. 2017. 

Jacqueline Mroz. "Their mothers chose donor sperm. The doctors used their own." New York Times. 2019

Alison Motluk. "Insemination fraud." HeyReprotech. 2020.

Adrian Horton. "Baby God: How DNA testing uncovered a shocking web of fertility fraud." The Guardian. 2020.

Katie MacBride. "Fertility doctors used their sperm to get patients pregnant. The children want justice. Vice. 2021.