A retired Indiana infertility specialist who used his own sperm to impregnate unwitting patients will not face prison time.
Dr. Donald Cline, 79, was given a one-year suspended sentence by Marion Superior Court Judge Helen Marchal on Thursday, after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice for lying to authorities. Cline had faced up to three years in prison on each count.
Liz White, a former patient of Clines, told The Associated Press she is disappointed in the verdict.
“The fact is our pain was not acknowledged,” she said.
The prominent doctor, who graduated from medical school in 1964 and retired in 2009, may have fathered dozens of children, according to White’s son, Matt White.
The 35-year-old told CBS News that private DNA testing has shown Cline is the biological father of at least 23 people.
“He violated women’s reproductive rights for close to a decade,” Matt White said, adding that additional testing may be performed.
Prosecutors are unable to file additional charges against Cline because there is no law on the books in Indiana that prohibits fertility doctors from using their own sperm. Liz White told FOX 59 ― the outlet that first broke the story in 2015 ― that she is working with legislative committees to criminalize it.
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Chicago Tribune, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into Cline in 2014, after two adult children of Cline’s former patients filed a complaint.
The complainants said they had submitted their DNA to a private company while researching their ancestry. When their DNA was entered into the company’s database, they were matched to several other individuals. Further investigation by the complainants revealed their mothers had been patients of Cline, the affidavit states.
Cline denied the allegations.
“I can emphatically say that at no time did I ever use my own sample for insemination,” he wrote in a letter to investigators.
Cline, authorities said, confessed to six adults who suspected him of being their father that he’d donated his own sperm approximately 50 times between 1971 and 1981.
“Dr. Cline admitted to doing wrong by inseminating the women with his own sperm, but felt that he was helping women because they really wanted a baby,” the affidavit said. “Also, he felt pressured to use his own sperm because he didn’t always have access to fresh sperm.”
Cline deceived patients who sought his help, telling them he was artificially inseminating them with donated sperm and that no single donor would be used more than three times, the affidavit said.
Paternity tests performed by the Marion County prosecutor’s office in August 2016 showed a 99.9 percent probability that Cline was the father of the two complainants, according to court records.
Cline expressed remorse during Thursday’s court hearing and apologized to “those who feel deceived and hurt.”
“I was scared ... I was foolish in my actions and I should not have lied,” he said, according to WWL-TV.
Cline’s explanation did not sit well with Julie Harmon, 35, who told the AP that DNA testing shows Cline is her biological father.
“His only remorse was being caught,” she said. “He has no remorse over the act at all.”