fertility doctor Norman Barwin has been suspended from practising medicine for
two months after artificially inseminating women with the wrong sperm. Five
women were involved in four incidents of receiving the wrong sperm between 1986
a hearing on 31 January, a disciplinary committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario reprimanded the doctor for professional misconduct. As part
of a plea bargain, Dr Barwin admitted to all four incidents and acknowledged that
he had fallen below the standard of medical practice. Two
further allegations were dropped.
voluntarily stopped his work at the Broadway Fertility Clinic in February 2012 where
he had practiced for over 30 years and warned other patients of possible
problems. These factors mitigated the outcome but a ban was still considered
necessary by the College prosecutor, Carolyn Silver, to maintain 'the integrity
of the profession'.
of the incidents, occurring in 1995, had previously resulted in a warning.
After that occasion, Barwin purportedly 'took steps to endeavour to ensure that no such errors
would occur in his practice in the future', the College outlined in the
According to Karen Hamway, Barwin's lawyer, he was unsure of
how the mistakes had occurred. One of his victims described the uncertainty as 'very,
very concerning'. The chairman of the committee, Dr William King commented that
'it is hard to imagine a more fundamental error in
[Barwin's] former specialty'.
is a past president of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society and the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada. He founded the pro-choice
organisation Canadians for Choice and has previously received the Order
of Canada and Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for his advocacy of women's health
and reproductive rights.
the hearing, letters attesting Barwin's quality of treatment were submitted. In
response, the families assembled victim impact statements, a rare occurrence in
such disciplinary hearings.
victim claimed that the positive testimonials conflicted with their experience,
while another remarked that 'there is no question
he has helped countless families… However, none of this diminishes the seriousness of the errors we know
he has made'.
Before the decision was delivered, Dr Barwin told the panel: 'I
regret I've caused my patients any difficulties. My intention was always to do
my best for them'.
In addition to the ban, two affected parties have
brought lawsuits against Barwin which have been settled out of court.