Meet The Fertility Doctor Who Fathered 600 & Other Controversial “Secret Sperm Donation” Cases

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fertility doctor who fathered 600


Overview: Who Is The Father Of 600 Children?

Dr. Bertold Wiesner may have fathered around 600 children — and some experts believe the number might actually be at least 1,000 (or so much more). That’s surprising, considering that the mean (average) number of children was 0.9 for men aged 15 to 49 in the US, based on 2015-2019 data from the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (1)(2)(3)

According to the CDC, as much as 55.2% of these males don’t have kids at all, and only 4.4% may have four or more kids. (1)

So, how did Dr. Wiesner ever father that many children? How come no one noticed or suspected a thing until so many kids were born? Did he really get away with doing this? Was he ever punished for the seemingly impossible situation? How were his actions discovered?

Was the “Our Father” documentary about Dr. Wiesner? Is he the only fertility doctor who fathered so many children in their clinic? The answers are actually surprising: both are “no.”

The controversial case of Dr. Donald Cline, the subject of “Our Father,” led to the enactment of fertility fraud laws in several US states.

Learn more about Dr. Wiesner, Dr. Cline, and other prolific “sperm donor” doctors below.


How Did Dr. Bertold Wiesner Father 600 Kids?

Dr. Wiesner, an Austrian-born British biologist, opened a clinic in London with his wife, Mary Barton (an obstetrician), in the 1940s. The clinic reported helping around 1,500 women conceive a baby. However, it was later revealed that the doctor may have provided two-thirds of the “donated” sperm used in the clinic. (3)

Sperm production varies from one man to another. But men typically produce around 20-300 million sperm per milliliter of semen – and can ejaculate as much as 2-5 ml at a time. So, that’s about 40-1,800 million sperm per ejaculation. (4)

Of course, producing that much sperm doesn’t automatically mean that a man can father millions of babies at the same time. After all, they need a woman’s egg to conceive. (5)

However, one sperm is also needed to fertilize a woman’s egg – and when a man has fertility problems (such as low sperm count, morphology, or motility issues), a couple might need to undergo interventions. This can include IUI (intrauterine insemination, also called artificial insemination) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). (6)

IUI became fairly common in the 1940s, but IVF wasn’t available at the time. Dr. Wiesner used IUI with relative success. He and his wife published several journal studies detailing these “clinical trials” and what they’ve learned about fertility/infertility based on these cases. (7)


Increasing Male Infertility Rates Led To Jump In Fertility Treatments

Barton and Wiesner were perceived as fertility experts, and their clinic was quite successful. (3)(7)

They were among the authors of a 1943 British Medical Journal study which detailed sterility and impaired fertility. According to the researchers, about 1/10 of marriages remain childless. Female infertility was the main reason for childlessness in most of these couples. However, the researchers explained that male infertility might also be high. As much as 60% of the childless women’s husbands had low fecundity (ability to make someone pregnant) or were sterile. (8)

In this 1943 study, they explained that there had been an increase in the number of couples seeking fertility treatments. These clinics practiced artificial insemination, increasing pregnancy rates. (8)


Secret “Sperm Donation” From Wiesner

Sperm used for these treatments supposedly came from the women’s husbands. However, there were cases when donor sperm was used because the husband was diagnosed with sterility. (3)(9)

Yet artificial insemination by a donor (AID) was also filled with controversies, particularly concerns about medical ethics. It was faced with strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which dubbed the practice “adultery.” (9)

Also, after observing issues involving known donors and inseminated women (e.g., emotional disturbance between the couple and the donor), Barton and her colleagues advised secrecy. (9)

Many couples, particularly the men, also wanted to keep the donors’ identity a secret. After all, it’s the husband’s name on the birth certificate, not the donor’s. (3)(9)

Unbeknownst to these couples, however, Dr. Wiesner used his own sperm to impregnate the women. (3)

The actual numbers remain unknown, but Barton has been quoted in several studies as saying they’ve used sperm donation in “several hundred cases.” (10)

Since DNA testing hadn’t been invented yet, and the couples didn’t want their children to know how they were conceived, the biological father’s identity (Dr. Wiesner) was never discovered until several years later.


DNA Test Kits Led To Unrealistic & Implausible Discovery

A filmmaker from Canada, Director Barry Stevens, explained that when his father died, his mother told him and his sister a secret kept for decades: they were conceived through donor sperm because their father was sterile. Their mom had Barton as her OB/GYN at a fertility clinic in England. He detailed his quest for his birth dad in the 2001 documentary “Offspring” and the 2009 movie “Bio-Dad.” (11)

Shocked but also curious about their father’s identity, Stevens got a DNA test kit. It would lead him to meet one of his half-brothers, a barrister in London named David Gollancz. However, they soon discovered they weren’t the only half-siblings – they had hundreds of other brothers and sisters. (11)


Biological Dad Search Pointed to Wiesner

Stevens and Gollancz’s search for their biological dad pointed to Dr. Wiesner. It took Stevens years to discover their father’s identity. (11)

Stevens reportedly requested a DNA test from Wiesner and Barton’s son to test his hypothesis. Jonathan Wiesner provided blood and saliva for a DNA test in 2007. It confirmed they were siblings. (12)


Some Siblings Met Up & Confirmed Their Relationships

With more people using at-home DNA test kits, Stevens found at least 45 others and personally met with some. In 2018, about 18 also agreed to participate in a study on human genomics reporting on the rare cases of numerous siblings sharing the same father. (2)(11)

In 2013, another one of Stevens’ half-siblings, Simon Smith from Toronto, Canada, ordered a DNA test kit because he thought it was “cool” but was quite surprised by the results. He soon learned that his mother, Adrianne Smith, was among Wiesner’s numerous children. (12)


What Is The Movie About The Fertility Doctor Who Fathered 600?

Stevens and his half-siblings would later appear in a 2020 CBC documentary about the true story of the doctor who fathered “The World’s Biggest Family.” (11)

However, the 2022 Netflix film “Our Father” is about a different man, Dr. Donald Cline. (see below)


Furious Groups Against Dr. Wiesner

Stevens talked to some of Wiesner’s “donor children moms.” He learned that they were told to keep everything a secret. (12)

Apparently, the British Parliament wanted to criminalize artificial insemination after the couple published their “clinical trials” in a journal. Christian groups led by the Archbishop of Canterbury declared it adultery and a “breach of marriage.” Meanwhile, a House of Lords committee called for these children to be considered illegitimate. (12)(13)

Others believe he was playing God and tampering with nature. (12)(13)

All these, plus the fact that Barton’s husband provided about ⅔ of the sperm donation, make it easy to understand why they wanted to keep things secret. (11)(12)


Call For The Right To Genetic Identity & Ban On Anonymous Sperm/Egg Donations

While Stevens said he’s fascinated by the many similarities he shares with his half-siblings (the group affectionately calls themselves “the halfies”), they’ve also joined the Donor-Conceived Alliance of Canada. (12)

The group calls for a ban on anonymous egg and sperm donation along with the long-term preservation of medical records to benefit donor-conceived children. It’s for their right to genetic identity. (12)


Dr. Bertold Wiesner Wasn’t Alone: Dozens Of Fertility Doctors Also Used Own Sperm

This “sperm donation” fraud didn’t just happen in England. Other fertility doctors in America, the Netherlands, and other places were also revealed to have fathered children with their unsuspecting patients.

Many of them lied to their patients, telling them that they would use sperm from these women’s partners or other sperm donors. They never told the couples that they were using their own sperm.


How Many Children Did Dr. Donald Cline Have?

A former Indiana fertility doctor, Dr. Donald Cline, is the subject of Lucie Jourdan’s Netflix documentary “Our Father.” He reportedly used his own sperm to impregnate his patients without their knowledge or consent. He has at least 94 children, as confirmed through at-home DNA tests. (14)(15)

He was reportedly known as the “Indianapolis’ best infertility doctor” in the 1970s and 1980s. He had a higher success rate than other clinics in the area. However, it was only after he retired that his secrets were exposed. (14)(15)


Woman Discovers Dozens Of Half-Siblings With Home DNA Test

According to the documentary, Jacoba Ballard had always felt that she was adopted because she looked different from her family. They had darker complexions and brown hair, while she was blonde and had blue eyes. (16)

At 10, she learned from her mom, Debbie Pierce, that she was conceived through artificial insemination with a donor sperm. Pierce recalled being told that the doctor would find a sperm donor that “resembles her husband” but had no idea he used his own sample. (16)

Ballard went to Dr. Cline’s clinic but was reportedly told that her mom’s decades-old medical records had already been “destroyed.” Although he “wished her luck” on her quest to find her dad, the doctor said there was nothing he could do to help. (16)

Still, it was only when Ballard turned 35 that she took a DNA test and submitted her results online via 23andMe. 


Documentary Led To More Discoveries

Many of Dr. Cline’s kids have a genetic autoimmune condition, rheumatoid arthritis, that affects around 8% or less of the population. The documentary shows Ballard taking medication for the condition. (14)

It led some viewers to believe they might also be one of Dr. Cline’s children because they do the same thing. That’s how Josh Noblet discovered he belongs to the American fertility doctor’s bizarre family tree. (14)

Josh and his brother Ryan share the same autoimmune condition. They are among the furious families who filed a lawsuit against the doctor in 2022 (although some cases were filed as early as 2016). (14)


Dr. Cline Allegedly Preferred Using “Fresh, Warm Sperm”

Dr. Cline used “fresh, warm sperm” because it had higher success rates at the time. Aside from using sperm from the patient’s husband, he also offered to find donors among his medical residents (doctor in training). (17)

In the Noblet family’s case, their father, Jerry Noblet, provided sperm samples. They were advised to undergo artificial insemination with Jerry’s sperm to increase their fertility chances. The family never suspected that Cline switched the sperm samples until Josh saw the Netflix documentary. (14)


No Real Justice For Most Of The Victims

Some Families Won Or Settled Cases Against Dr. Cline

Fertility fraud deception wasn’t considered a crime in Indiana when Dr. Cline committed these actions. So, Dr. Cline’s victims were unable to sue him for it. (15)(17)

However, some successfully took him to court for obstruction of justice, winning the case in 2017. (15)

At first, Dr. Cline fought back and declared he never used his own sperm. But investigators secured a search warrant. DNA material from Dr. Cline’s mouth confirmed his relationship with these donor children. (17)


Retired Dr. Cline Loses Medical License, But It’s Irrelevant

Dr. Cline got a suspended sentence (he didn’t go to jail) and a $500 fine for the 2017 case. (15)

He was also stripped of his medical license in 2018. However, he retired from practice in 2009. So, the victims believe it wasn’t real justice because it’s no longer relevant. (15)(17)


How Many Kids Did Dr. Cecil Jacobson Have?

DNA tests have confirmed that Dr. Cecil Jacobson fathered at least 15 children at his reproductive genetics center in Fairfax County, Virginia. However, some researchers believe he may have at least 75 children through fertility fraud. (17)


How Many Kids Did Dr. Jan Karbaat (Dutch Fertility Doctor) Have?

DNA tests have confirmed that Dr. Jan Karbaat had at least 49 children through artificial insemination using his own sperm at his clinic in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (17)(18)

However, the doctor had personally confirmed he assisted around 6,000 women in his fertility clinic, where as many as 10,000 children were conceived. The actual number of Dr. Karbaat’s children is believed to be at least 200. (17)


List Of Other Fertility Doctors Who Used Own Sperm On Patients

  • Dr. Paul B. Jones – He may have fathered at least 17 children with 12 unsuspecting women at his Western Colorado clinic using artificial insemination from 1975 to 1997. The children discovered their relationship using at-home DNA test kits. (17)(19)
  • Dr. John Boyd Coates III – At least two of his children sued him for damages. He used his own sperm to impregnate these kids’ moms at his Vermont fertility clinic without their knowledge. (17)
  • Dr. Quincy Fortier – The subject of the HBO documentary “Baby God,” Dr. Fortier never revealed how many patients he treated at his clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, he’s believed to have fathered “hundreds” without these moms’ knowledge or consent. (17)(20)
  • Dr. Jos Beek – Another Dutch fertility doctor, he had a clinic in Leiden, the Netherlands. He’s been confirmed to have fathered at least 41 children. However, he had already died in 2019 before his patients learned about the fertility fraud in the 2020s. (17)
  • Dr. Norman Barwin – At least 11 families of “Barwin babies” (their parents were initially proud that he had helped them conceive) have sued the Ottawa-based fertility expert for using his own sperm without their knowledge. The shocking discovery started when Kat Palmer, one of the “Barwin babies,” convinced the doctor to take a DNA test – and they matched. She found more siblings with the Family Tree DNA database with the help of a cousin, a journalist from New York. (21)


Fertility Fraud Law

Most of the fertility doctors mentioned above never paid for their crimes because there weren’t any laws against fertility fraud at the time. After Dr. Cline’s case went public, legislation was passed to make fertility fraud a felony in Indiana. It prohibits doctors from using their own sperm to impregnate their patients, especially without their consent. (22)

States in America that now have laws against fertility fraud include: (23)

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Texas


Legislations have also been passed in the following states: (23)

  • New York
  • Nebraska



(1) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr179.pdf

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8674833/

(3) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9193014/British-man-fathered-600-children-at-own-fertility-clinic.html

(4) https://www.open.edu/openlearn/nature-environment/natural-history/sperm-counts

(5) https://www.pccob.com/fetal-development

(6) https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/m/male-infertility

(7) https://rep.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/rep/16/3/jrf_16_3_001.xml

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2285157/?page=1

(9) https://era.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/2649/JM?sequence=4

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2973227/pdf/eugenrev00040-0027.pdf

(11) https://www.heyreprotech.com/p/secrets-lies-and-anonymity-a-q-and

(12) https://www.easydna.co.za/knowledge-base/dna-analysis-reveals-a-womans-600-half-siblings/

(13) https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1958/feb/26/artificial-insemination-of-married-women 

(14) https://ktla.com/news/man-notices-detail-in-netflix-documentary-realizes-mom-was-fertility-doctors-victim-family-says/

(15) https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/11/our-father-who-is-dr-donald-cline-and-where-is-he-now-16619778/

(16) https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/the-jaw-dropping-true-story-behind-netflixs-our-father/3247236/

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10235527/

(18) https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/13/dutch-fertility-scandal-dna-tests-confirm-doctor-jan-karbaat-used-own-sperm-to-father-49-c

(19) https://www.denverpost.com/2022/04/29/fertility-fraud-dr-paul-jones-jury-verdict/

(20) https://press.wbd.com/ca/media-release/hbo-documentary-baby-god-debuts-december-2

(21 https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/barwins-babies)

(22) https://www.theindianalawyer.com/articles/50673-zipping-into-statutes-overview-of-new-laws-for-2019

(23) https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3g5qy/fertility-doctors-used-their-sperm-to-get-patients-pregnant-the-children-want-justice


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