by Jennifer Henderson, Enterprise & Investigative Writer, MedPage Today February 8, 2022
As cases of fertility fraud continue to emerge across the U.S., the Vermont Board of Medical Practice has taken action against a retired obstetrician accused of impregnating two of his patients with his own sperm through artificial insemination in the 1970s, the Associated Press reported.
In an order signed last week, the board reprimanded John Coates III, MD, and revoked his license. Coates is also facing two lawsuits filed by the former patients.
In 2018, a Florida couple sued Coates, alleging that he was the father of their daughter as a result of an artificial insemination procedure in 1977, AP reported. And last year, a Colorado woman filed suit against Coates, accusing him of using his own sperm in an artificial insemination procedure in 1978 at the former Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin.
The women said that Coates agreed to perform their respective procedures with donor material from an unnamed medical student. Both issued complaints to the Vermont Board of Medical Practice.
Peter Joslin, legal counsel for Coates, said that his client disagreed with the board’s decision. Coates must also pay a $4,000 administrative penalty, the report noted.
According to AP, the Vermont Board of Medical Practice said that Coates misled its investigative committee. He refused to undergo genetic testing in the case of the first patient, and later participated in testing in another forum.
“While I have no present memory of ever having used my own genetic material to artificially inseminate a female patient, genetic testing has confirmed that I was the sperm donor for the pregnancy that resulted in the birth of (the daughter of Patient 1). I have no knowledge of, or reason to suspect, the existence of any other occasion where I used my own sperm in the performance of an artificial insemination procedure,” Coates said, according to the board.
Responding to the second patient’s allegations, Coates said that based on DNA testing information, he had used his own genetic material in the artificial insemination procedure, AP reported.
Though Coates did not participate in the license hearing before the board, his attorney submitted a letter that said that Coates was surrendering his medical license permanently, the report said. “Dr. Coates retired from medical practice in 2008. He is now 80 years old. He is giving up his medical license permanently. The events that are at issue occurred more than forty years ago. Dr. Coates regrets the circumstances giving rise to the charges,” the letter stated.
Similar cases are not unheard of in the fertility industry.
In May 2021, Bianca Voss, a New Jersey mother, filed suit against her former physician, Martin Greenberg, MD, alleging he used his own sperm to impregnate her in an insemination procedure performed in 1983. The discovery only happened recently, when the woman’s daughter received the results of a 23andMe DNA kit, according to the lawsuit.
“This kind of abuse is so terrible, and I want to help stop it from happening again to other women and other families by sharing my story,” Voss said during a press conference announcing her case against Greenberg, who previously practiced in New York City.
Last November, Daphna and Alexander Cardinale of Los Angeles sued their fertility clinic, the California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH), and Eliran Mor, MD, after genetic testing revealed that the daughter they raised for months was the biological child of complete strangers.
The Cardinales said that they initiated the IVF process through CCRH with Mor in order to have a second child. However, due to an alleged embryo mix-up, the Cardinales and another family they’d never met had to exchange baby girls months after their 2019 births.
Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.
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