A Dutch fertility doctor has been found to be the genetic father of at least three patients conceived in his clinic.
The child of a former patient of Dr Henk Ruis contacted FIOM, an organisation which helps people with parentage research, reporting that they believed Dr Ruis to be their genetic father. FIOM worked with Nij Geertgen – a fertility centre that took over the one where Dr Ruis previously worked – to investigate. Dr Ruis cooperated and provided a DNA sample.
As a result, FIOM found 'three children's DNA profiles match Dr Ruis's DNA profile … So we have found three children of Ruis.'
Dr Ruis responded that the discovery came 'as a total surprise'.
All three children were conceived in the late 1980s or early 1990s. In one case, the sperm of the woman's husband was supposed to be used, and not donor sperm. Dr Ruis claimed his sperm must have been mixed with donor sperm, suggesting that the issue related to 'the primitive lab facilities' and a mistake with the testing of freezing equipment.
However, any possibility of staff sperm being mixed with donor sperm would be an ethical breach according to the Nij Geertgen clinic. 'There were no rules for donor conception but then, as now, it was considered unethical for a doctor to use his own sperm without consulting the parents and asking their permission,' said a spokesperson.
The organisation emphasised that 'with the current professional setup of the new clinic and laboratory and the current legislation on donor sperm, it is impossible that 'such an event could ever happen again.'
Anyone else concerned that Dr Ruis may be their genetic father is encouraged to contact FIOM.
At least ten fertility doctors in the Netherlands have been found to have used their own sperm when treating patients, including the high-profile case of Dr Jan Karbaat who fathered at least 81 children (see BioNews 996).
Possibly as a result of these high-profile cases, 2021 saw a record number of donor-conceived Dutch people seeking information about their donors.
Anonymous donation was banned in the Netherlands in 2004, and the Artificial Fertilisation Donor Information Office (SDKB) was set up to keep a register of sperm, egg, or embryo donor information and handle information requests.
Requests from people conceived after June 2004 (and/or their parents, as many are still minors) almost doubled compared to the previous year. Most were looking for social and physical donor information, like donor height and occupation, although children aged 16 or over are permitted to request identifying information.
Requests from people conceived before June 2004 also doubled, with most in this group looking for identifying information such as donor name, date of birth or address at the time of donation. However, only a quarter of these results could be fulfilled, because fertility clinics find it difficult to identify and register donor information from inseminations that happened before June 2004 as record-keeping was undertaken differently. When they were able to contact the donor, around three-quarters did consent for their information to be shared with the donor-conceived person.