Indiana has become the first US state to pass legislation making it a criminal offence for fertility doctors to use their own sperm in treatment without their patients' prior knowledge and consent.
The law was drafted following the case of Dr Donald Cline, a fertility doctor from Indianapolis who used his own sperm to inseminate numerous patients in the 1970s and 1980s (see BioNews 931).
Matt White, one of the children conceived using Dr Cline's sperm, told RTV6 Indianapolis: 'We were told there were no laws to charge Cline or others that would engage in similar deplorable actions and the only thing to do would be to create a law; should this issue arise again in the future, the patients and children are protected.'
Following the discovery of Dr Cline's actions, affected families were told that he could not be prosecuted under criminal law for deceptively using his own sperm when treating patients.
Dr Cline was, however, charged and found guilty of other offences relating to his conduct during the investigation, and in 2017 he received a one-year suspended sentence and a US$500 fine for misleading investigators. His medical licence was also revoked.
The new legislation, which will come into force from 1 July 2019, will make it a felony for a healthcare professional to make a 'misrepresentation relating to a medical procedure, device or drug and human reproductive material'.
The new legislation was written by Senator Jack Sandlin, who said: 'This Bill would create greater consequences for these reprehensible acts by increasing the penalty for fertility fraud and allowing compensation of up to $10,000 for prevailing plaintiffs.'
Liz White – Matt's mother – who was treated by Dr Cline, praised the state legislature's support for the new law, and told CBC: 'I'm very grateful to them, and I'm grateful that people who have to deal with infertility now – if it's not handled correctly, then they themselves have the right to and pursue it in the courts.'