Fertility Fraud, Legal Firsts, and Medical Ethics

Document Type


Publication Date



On May 5, 2019, Indiana became the first state to legislate against a doctor’s failure to
obtain his fertility patient’s consent before inseminating her using his own sperm. Less than a
month later, Texas passed an even stricter law against fertility fraud, as the practice is called.
The explosion of at-home DNA testing has recently uncovered dozens of doctors who conceived
scores of offspring using their own sperm instead of the samples provided by a spouse, an
unknown donor, or a donor that the patients had selected. This revelation has upended
families, revealed webs of biological half-siblings, and confounded the legal system. Fertility
fraud is a pressing case study about the demands of informed consent and modern struggles
between patient wellbeing and autonomy in the clinical practice of obstetric and fertility
medicine. The answers to these hard questions are also giving rise to new criminal and civil
penalties that are codifying those developments in medical ethics into law.