Lawsuit claims Ottawa doctor used own sperm to impregnate fertility patients
By Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 2, 2016 5:55PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, November 2, 2016 6:36PM EDT
An Ontario doctor once suspended for inseminating women with the wrong sperm at his fertility clinic is now accused of allegedly using his own biological material to impregnate certain patients who came to him for treatment.
An Ottawa family has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin, alleging he is the biological father of their 26-year-old daughter.
In a statement of claim, the family alleges Barwin falsely claimed to be using Daniel Dixon's sperm to inseminate the man's wife, Davina, in 1990 when the couple was trying to conceive a child.
It claims the couple had a daughter, Rebecca, but DNA tests have conclusively shown that she is not Daniel Dixon's biological child.
The statement of claim says Rebecca Dixon, who has filed the legal action along with her parents, has reason to believe she is also related to a Vancouver woman who has been proven to be Barwin's biological daughter.
Barwin's lawyer, Karen Hamway, said a statement of defence will be filed in the coming weeks and declined to offer any further comment. None of the allegations against Barwin have been proven in court.
All three Dixons are seeking general damages for pain and suffering, special damages for out-of-pocket costs including DNA testing, punitive damages, and the chance to pursue Barwin for child support.
"The defendant's reckless and wanton conduct, including the cavalier use of his own sperm in his insemination procedures, demonstrated a reprehensible disregard for the health, safety and rights of the plaintiffs, the members of the plaintiff classes and of the general public," the Dixons' statement of claim said.
Barwin's dealings with the Dixon family began in 1989 when Daniel and Davina Dixon came to the Ottawa-based Broadview Fertility clinic for treatment, according to the statement of claim.
Over the course of numerous fertility treatments, the suit alleges Barwin assured the couple Davina Dixon was being inseminated with sperm provided by her husband.
Rebecca Dixon was born in June 1990, the suit said, adding the family did not question her paternity until earlier this year.
At that time, it said, Davina Dixon grew concerned after learning that it was impossible for two blue-eyed parents to conceive a brown-eyed child, as had apparently happened in her family's case.
The family sought DNA testing and learned in April 2015 that Daniel Dixon had a 0 per cent probability of being Rebecca Dixon's biological father, the statement of claim said.
According to the suit, the family then began digging into Barwin's well-documented history with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
The regulatory body suspended Barwin's license for two months in 2013 and issued a reprimand over practices at the Broadview clinic.
In an agreed statement of facts presented at his disciplinary hearing, Barwin admitted that "errors in his practice...resulted in his failure to provide his patients with offspring from their intended biological fathers."
Barwin's license was reactivated in March 2013, but college records indicate he resigned it permanently in August 2014.
By that time, he had also lost his status as a member of the Order of Canada, which was granted in 1997 for his "profound impact on both the biological and psycho-social aspects of women's reproductive health. "
Rebecca Dixon noticed a physical resemblance between herself and Barwin, according to the lawsuit, and tried to uncover more information.
An ancestry website that analyzed her DNA profile concluded that her main genetic composition was Ashkenazi Jewish. Barwin identifies as a member of the Ottawa Jewish community, according to the suit.
Months later, she connected with Kathryn Palmer of Vancouver, who was also conceived at the Broadview clinic.
Palmer had undertaken her own investigations into her parentage after learning that she was conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor in 1990, the statement of claim said.
Palmer eventually traced her ancestry back to Barwin, connected with him directly, and obtained DNA tests concluding that she was his biological child, it said.
After sharing stories, Palmer and Rebecca Dixon underwent further testing to determine if they were related. DNA results concluded that the women were half-sisters by way of the same biological father, the statement of claim said.
The suit alleges Barwin breached numerous contractual and fiduciary duties by using his own sperm to impregnate Davina Dixon.
"Davina consented and only consented to Dr. Barwin using her husband's sperm for the purposes of artificial insemination," the claim states. "As a result of Dr. Barwin's use of his own sperm in the insemination procedure, Dr. Barwin violated her bodily integrity."