He's an IVF 'trailblazer.' Now he's alleged to have covertly utilized his own sperm.

When Carolyn Bester underwent a pair of at-home DNA tests, she was curious about whether she could locate relatives of the unidentified donor whose sperm led to her conception 43 years ago. The results shocked her. The unknown family she discovered was connected to Merle Berger, a renowned IVF doctor who established one of the largest fertility clinics in Boston and assisted her mother, Sarah Depoian, in becoming pregnant. According to a new lawsuit, Bester pieced together the puzzle and realized the truth: Berger was her biological father and had secretly inseminated Depoian in 1980 under the pretense that the sperm came from someone "who resembled her husband, who did not know her, and whom she did not know." "It was truly shocking and devastating to discover that — that's your life's narrative and that's how you were brought into this world," said Bester, 42, during a press conference. The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that Berger, a former professor at Harvard Medical School, inseminated Depoian without her consent using his own sperm. The artificial insemination resulted in a successful pregnancy for Depoian, and Bester was born in January 1981. "This is an extreme violation. I am still struggling to come to terms with it," said Depoian, a 73-year-old resident of Maine, in a statement. "I trusted Dr. Berger completely. We believed he would act responsibly and ethically. I will never fully recover from his violation of me." Adam Wolf, Depoian's attorney, claimed that Berger knew exactly what he was doing when he allegedly inseminated Depoian with his own sperm over four decades ago, despite informing her that it came from an anonymous donor. According to the complaint, Depoian is seeking "damages in an amount sufficient to compensate her for her injuries." "Some refer to this horrific act as medical rape, but regardless of the terminology, Dr. Berger's abhorrent and deliberate misconduct is unethical, unacceptable, and illegal," Wolf said in a statement. Ian Pinta, Berger's attorney, refuted the allegations in a statement to The Washington Post, emphasizing that Berger, now 82, was "a pioneer in the medical fertility field who, over 50 years of practice, helped thousands of families fulfill their dreams of having a child." Berger retired in 2020. "The allegations pertain to events that occurred over 40 years ago, during the early days of artificial insemination," Pinta said. "The allegations, which have changed multiple times in the six months since the plaintiff's attorney initially contacted Dr. Berger, lack legal or factual merit and will be disproven in court." A spokesperson from Harvard Medical School informed The Post that while Berger was academically affiliated with the medical school, his primary employment was at various Harvard-affiliated hospitals, which are not owned or operated by the university. A spokesperson for Boston IVF Fertility Clinic did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The fertility center released a statement to WCVB, an ABC affiliate in Boston, clarifying that the lawsuit pertains to an allegation that occurred before Berger's employment and before the company was established. "We would like to emphasize that the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility has significantly evolved since those decades ago, and the current safety measures and safeguards make such allegations virtually impossible nowadays," the clinic stated. "Patients can rest assured that our field continues to uphold the highest ethical and medical standards." The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions in recent years involving women who discovered that they were secretly inseminated by their fertility doctors. Several cases have resulted in fertility doctors owing patients millions of dollars for impregnating them through artificial insemination while falsely claiming the sperm came from an anonymous donor.

Many of the stories in recent years have emerged as a result of individuals undergoing at-home DNA tests, such as those offered by Ancestry.com and 23andMe, in order to gain more insight into their family heritage. When Depoian and her spouse discovered that they were unable to conceive using her spouse's sperm, the couple visited Berger's office in Massachusetts in 1980 to seek assistance, according to the lawsuit. Berger suggested performing an intrauterine insemination, which involves directly placing sperm into the uterus using a catheter. After assuring Depoian that the sperm would come from a medical resident who resembled her husband and whom she was unfamiliar with, Depoian agreed to proceed with the process. Unbeknownst to Depoian, the fertility doctor was aware of whose sperm he would be using for the procedure, as stated in the lawsuit. "The misconduct of Dr. Berger was not an accident," the lawsuit claims, providing a graphic account of how Berger allegedly inserted his own sperm into Depoian's body "while fully aware that she had not consented to his sperm entering her body." Following this incident, Berger's career flourished when he co-founded Boston IVF in 1986. According to its website, over 90,000 babies have been born with the assistance of Boston IVF. "Dr. Berger's career is essentially the history of IVF in America," the fertility center stated in a 2020 announcement that has since been removed from the website. Over 40 years after her birth, Bester eagerly sought to learn more about her family history and ordered DNA kits from Ancestry.com and 23andMe in late 2020. However, the family history reports she received at the beginning of this year did not provide a direct answer regarding her biological father, prompting Bester to reach out to the relatives listed in the findings for further information. Then, an unsettling revelation occurred. According to the lawsuit, Bester spoke with two individuals who claimed to be Berger's granddaughter and second cousin. Subsequently, she alleged that Berger was her biological father. "To say that I was shocked when I discovered this would be a gross understatement," said Bester, who resides in New Jersey, during a press conference. Bester shared the DNA results with her mother, who had been unaware of the sperm donor's identity. Shortly after making this discovery, Depoian contacted Berger through her legal representative. "In response, Dr. Berger did not deny that he inserted his own sperm into Ms. Depoian's body against her wishes and his promises," the lawsuit states. "He also did not deny that he concealed his misconduct by failing to inform her about his actions following the intrauterine insemination." Depoian stated on Wednesday that she felt like a "victim of assault" and expressed concerns that the fertility doctor "may have violated other unsuspecting patients." Bester mentioned that she was struggling to come to terms with the circumstances of her conception and with the alleged responsible donor. "My mother placed her trust in Dr. Berger as a medical professional during one of the most vulnerable moments in her life," she remarked. "He held all the power, and she had none." Bester added, "It feels like reality has shifted."
طلحة عبد الكريم
By : طلحة عبد الكريم
مدير و محرر مدونة الموقع التقني.