Fertility Doctor Donald Cline Donated His Sperm To Patients For Years Without Their Consent

Aspiring parents who can't conceive naturally face a difficult decision: pass on having children altogether, adopt a child, or consider using a sperm donor. Fertility clinics were a nascent industry in the latter half of the 20th century, but many parents put their faith in fertility doctors in hopes of bringing a child into the world through their facilities. Unfortunately, some put their faith in the wrong doctor: Donald Cline.

Doctors are supposed to find a donor with DNA that closely resembles the father, but during the 1970s and '80s, many doctors did not even keep records of donors or successful pregnancies. Fertility clinics were the Wild West until the late 1980s, when frozen sperm became the norm.

Now, thanks to modern advances in technology, adopted and donor-conceived children can find other siblings and parents with home tests and websites like ancestry.com. However, what they find can sometimes be shocking or even life-changing, like in the following case.

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  • In 2014, Donor-Conceived Indiana Woman Jacoba Ballard Took A DNA Test To Find Her Half-Siblings

    Jacoba Ballard never felt like she completely belonged in her family. Her mother informed her she was donor-conceived when Ballard was 10 years old, and as an only child who longed for a sibling, her mother’s news gave her hope that she may have a brother or sister to bond with.

    When Ballard was 18, she called Dr. Cline, the fertility doctor who helped her mother conceive. At that time, no DNA test kits were available, and Cline told her he couldn’t help her find any potential siblings.

  • Eventually, Ballard Teamed Up With Half-Sister Kristy Killion To Find Their Shared Father

    In 2014, Ballard used a 23andMe DNA testing kit. Genetic genealogy refers to the use of DNA kits for the purpose of finding biological relatives. Major advances in DNA testing now allow people to use at-home tests from popular brands like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage DNA, and more.

    Forensic specialists can use these tests to find potential suspects and leads in criminal cases, but they have also become a reliable way for both adopted and donor-conceived children to find out more about their ancestry and biological relatives.

    Through the DNA testing kit, Ballard found a few siblings with matching DNA who had an unknown father. One of those half-siblings was Kristy Killion. The two women met and discussed their connection as well as the possibility of finding any other potential siblings - something that was near-impossible just a decade prior.

  • Killion and Ballard Found Way More Relatives Than They Expected And Grew Suspicious

    Killion and Ballard's DNA tests initially linked the two women to seven other siblings - nine people total. This immediately struck them as odd because the same sperm donor is only supposed to be used for three successful pregnancies.

    If they really did have more than three siblings, something was amiss. Certain siblings, like Heather Woock, initially ignored their messages, thinking they were a scam; however, Woock was also interested in her genealogy and eventually responded to their messages after hearing from multiple supposed half-siblings.

    Even so, the question remained: Who was their father?

  • The Siblings Realized All Of Their Mothers Had Been Treated By The Same Doctor: Donald Cline

    As more siblings were discovered and brought into the loop, they began looking for something that connected them. The one person who seemed to thread their existence together was the fertility doctor, Donald Cline.

    Dr. Cline seemed to be the only person who could tell them who their father was, but he had told Killion that he shredded all of their information a long time ago. Although Cline remembered some of their parents, he offered them no help.