Michigan doc accused of using own sperm spurs fertility clinic legislation

Lansing A deceased Metro Detroit doctor accused of using his own sperm to fertilize female patients in need of fertility assistance has urged legislation that would make it a crime in Michigan for doctors who misrepresent the source of donor sperm or eggs.

The bills are the first sting by state lawmakers in setting up safety railings around fertility practices in Michigan that some describe as a “wild west.”

The five-bill package, which passed from the Michigan House at the end of June and goes to the state Senate, will prohibit individuals from providing false information related to assisted reproduction, as well as preventing health workers from getting an embryo , use sperm or egg different from the one requested by their client.

State Representative John Roth, R-Traverse City, introduced the legislation after a voter told him her mother’s doctor used his own sperm instead of a designated donor’s sperm sample to fertilize her mother. Michigan currently has no laws to punish a doctor for lying about a sperm donor or his own use.

“There are no laws against it in the state of Michigan, no security regulations, nothing nothing,” Roth said. “It’s a wild, wild West in Michigan in terms of fertility.”

Jaime Hall told lawmakers earlier this year that she found out she was a victim of fertility fraud after a DNA test showed she was not 100% Scottish – although her mother had always indicated that her donor was Scottish – and previously 50% were Ashkenazi Jew.

The 62-year-old woman from Traverse City met her mother’s Oak Park obstetrician and gynecologist, dr. Approached Philip Peven, who admitted that he had rather used his own sperm because he knew it was “viable” and to use another doctor’s sperm to help her mother get pregnant. sister.

Peven, who is now deceased, apparently fertilized an unknown number of women with his own sperm while exercising between the 1940s and 1980s.

“He said he got rid of her monster,” Hall said of her conversation with Peven. “When I asked why, he said because he did not know if it was viable.

“He should have told my mother that he used himself.”

‘Business to create people’

Hall said she made her story knownfirst reported by The Daily Mail and The Detroit Jewish News in 2020, “to make the fraud aware, that it’s common and that I’m not alone and it’s going on more than we think.”

Hall said she was “delighted” with the House’s adoption of the legislation – calling it a victory for the brothers and sisters and parents who were misled by the doctor – and argued that similar rules should be created at the federal level.

“These people, they are creating people,” Hall told lawmakers at a February hearing. “Shouldn’t we oversee this?”

Peven, who has given birth to more than 9,000 babies in his career, died in May at the age of 105, his son Roger Peven said.

Roger Peven, who now lives in Washington state, told The Detroit News that when his father started working in obstetrics and gynecology, it was a “different time” when fertility clinics and sperm banks and the ethical framework around them were somewhat unknown. He said he believed the actions his father had taken were not bad intentions.

But Roger Peven noted that the similarities in appearance between himself and some of the individuals who emerged as half-brothers and sisters were too obvious to deny. And he said he supports the House legislation.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that that legislation should exist,” Roger Peven said. “The people involved have every right to feel the way they feel.”

Since he in 2019 from dr. Hearing Philip Peven’s actions, Hall discovered 10 half-brothers and sisters who also had their DNA tested. Hall said she took it upon herself to explain what happened at the Oak Park Clinic to newly discovered half-siblings.

For everyone, the news is “devastating” and “shocking,” but even more “incredible” is that there are no laws preventing fraud or ways to hold individuals accountable, Hall said. In addition to the emotional toll the news has taken on everyone, there are more practical concerns associated with previously unknown health histories, she said.

“Some of my other siblings, he did tell them, ‘I will use a doctor or a resident of the hospital,’ but they were not told he was going to use himself,” Hall said.

Peven was a 1941 graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School, a World War II veteran and the last surviving member of his 1941 class, according to a 2017 feature removed from a UM website shortly after broke the December 2020 stories. The article and photos of Peven were retrieved by an internet archive search.

Reining in the ‘wild west’

Hall and others who testified about the “Right to Know” group told lawmakers earlier this year that the issue is more widely recognized as individuals can easily access DNA information through over-the-counter test kits. A Netflix documentary released this year called “Our Father” investigated a similar high-profile case involving a fertility doctor in Indianapolis.

Federal regulations only require a donor to be tested for sexually transmitted infections and communicable diseases, Kara Rubinstein Deyerin, CEO of Right to Know, started a national group to educate, support and support those with “wrong parenting” advocates, what donors are. conceived or adopted.

“Because of this lack of regulation, the United States is called the wild west in the fertility industry,” Rubinstein Deyerin said, pointing out that Europe has better rules around the industry.

The bills passed by the House would make it an offense to knowingly engage in activities that provide false or misleading information related to assisted reproduction, making it punishable by up to five years in prison and / or a fine. of $ 50,000. The false information that can be prosecuted under the bill will include information related to the embryo or gamete used or the identity or medical or social history of a donor.

Health workers using an embryo or gamete, including their own, not designated by the patient will face up to 15 years in prison or a $ 100,000 fine.

The bill also specifies that the crimes will have a 15-year statute of limitations within which charges will have to be filed. The period of 15 years would begin when an individual discovered evidence of the fraud.

The legislation also opens the window for civil litigation based on false representations related to assisted reproduction. It allows a parent or child injured by the false representation to sue for punitive and economic and non-economic damages, as well as attorney fees and costs. The case will have to be filed within three years after an individual discovers the false representation.

The accounts do not appear to be retroactive, meaning that individuals allegedly injured by previous false representations, such as Hall, will not be able to file criminal charges.

The legislation will also allow and in some cases require the State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to take disciplinary action against a physician accused of making false representations in cases of assisted reproduction.

Similar legislation was recently signed in Iowa, and Vermont recently became the first state to suspend the license of a physician accused of fertility fraud, Rubinstein Deyerin said.

Bills that give fertility fraud victims the right to start a civil lawsuit are necessary because many individuals have found their way to the courtroom that has been blocked at a technical point, she said.

“It has been found that offspring across the country are not persistent because they were not alive or a party to the contract, and the doctor did not owe them a duty of care,” Rubinstein Deyerin said.

Individuals struggling with questions about their parenting can call the group’s hotline at (323) TALK-MPE or visit www.righttoknow.us, she said.

“We are here to say, ‘You are not alone,'” Rubinstein Deyerin said. “There are support groups for this. You can seek help.”


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