A fertility doctor in Canada who is accused of impregnating women with the wrong sperm — in many cases using his own — has agreed to a $10 million payout.
The large settlement was announced Wednesday at a virtual hearing, said a law firm representing at least one of the families. Nelligan Law said the settlement was "groundbreaking."
Seventeen people discovered through DNA testing that Dr. Norman Barwin is their biological father after their families sought his help, according to a press release from the law firm. More than 80 others "do not know the identity of their biological father" but learned that Barwin did not use the sperm he was supposed to in their conception.
"The settlement of the class action provides compensation to those patients and their children where the DNA of the children is not as was intended by the parents at the time of the artificial insemination performed by Barwin," the law firm said in a statement. "It also provides compensation to former patients who had entrusted their semen with Barwin either for safe-keeping or for a specific intended use, but which was used by Barwin in the insemination of another patient, and which resulted in offspring."
An attorney for Barwin declined to comment when contacted by NBC News on Friday. Barwin has denied the allegations against him and did not admit fault in the settlement. He agreed to the settlement because he wanted to avoid spending more time and money fighting the case, it states.
One family, Davina and Daniel Dixon, sued Barwin in 2016 after they discovered through a DNA test that Daniel was not their daughter's biological father.
According to court documents, the couple went to Barwin in 1989 because they needed help starting a family. After several sessions with Barwin, Davina became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named Rebecca in 1990.
For several decades, the family believed that Daniel was Rebecca's biological father, the documents state. It wasn't until 2016 that the family learned the truth.
The documents state that Davina was browsing on Facebook and saw a post that said it was unusual for two people with blue eyes to give birth to a child with brown eyes, which was the family's case. Davina became "concerned" and contacted their family doctor to request a DNA test, according to the court documents. The results showed there was a zero percent chance that Daniel was Rebecca's biological father.
The family started doing research and came across media reports about Barwin. They also began noticing the "uncanny physical resemblance" between Rebecca and the doctor, the documents state.
Rebecca connected with another woman on Facebook, Kat Palmer, who had already learned that Barwin was her biological father. The documents state that Palmer's parents went to Barwin and requested the use of an anonymous sperm donor.
"They specifically selected an anonymous sperm donor with certain traits and characteristics that were important to them," the documents state.
Instead, Barwin inseminated Janet Palmer with his sperm, the documents state.
The allegations against Barwin date back to 1970, during his time at Ottawa General Hospital and an Ottawa clinic. In other cases, a mother said she was given incorrect information about her sperm donor and could not get any information about the medical history of her son, who has learning disabilities.
Another woman said she believed Barwin was using her husband's sperm but later found out that he is not the biological father of their children.
In 2019, Barwin was declared "incompetent" by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. He resigned from the college in 2014, but it was later revoked and he was ordered to pay a fine. Barwin has not practiced since 2014.
The court still needs to approve the settlement, which totals $10.7 million U.S. dollars, and will review it in a November hearing.