LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Imagine spending your whole life thinking the man who helped raise you was your biological father, only to discover later in life your real father was a doctor your parents turned to for help.
“My mom and dad were married and tried for eight years to have children,” Jaime Hall said.
Hall’s parents wanted to have children back in the 1950s, but couldn’t. They then decided to see a well-known fertility specialist, Dr. Philip Peven.
Dr. Peven helped Mrs. Hall conceive Jaime, who never thought anything was unusual about her upbringing. Her parents kept her artificial insemination a secret for many years. However, she eventually found out about it and took a paternity test to find out the results.
“The result came back that my dad was 100% not my biological father,” Hall said.
Her mother eventually said Peven performed a procedure to help “make her husband’s sperm swim faster.”
“I’m seeing half-siblings and I’m seeing a bunch of things on there that I didn’t understand, but there was the name that was managing the accounts,” Hall said. “It was the only name that I recognized, and, as soon as I saw it said, ‘Peven,’ I just looked up at my husband, and said ‘I know who my biological father is.”
Several fertility doctors across the United States have used their own sperm to promote pregnancies in women. According to The New York Post, Dr. Quincy Fortier fathered several children by injecting his patients with his very own semen.
A documentary about the scandal is also featured on HBO called, “Baby God.”
The New York Post article discusses a very similar situation where a woman used 23andMe and Ancestry.com to find out the truth about her DNA. The case also mentions a practice used by Dr. Peven called “sperm-mixing,” which was used in the 1950s and ’60s.
Currently, it’s not illegal for a doctor to use his own sperm to artificially impregnate a patient, even without permission.
In Hall’s case, she was initially shocked but eventually decided to visit Dr. Peven after a long discussion with one of her half-siblings. He is located out of the metro-Detroit area.
She said the encounter was awkward, but not terrible. When looking at a baby picture of Hall on her cell phone, he called her parents his “Barbie and Ken.”
She also says what happened to her mother was ethically wrong and Peven violated his power as a doctor. Hall hopes by her speaking up about her mother’s situation will eventually help create a law to make the practice illegal in Michigan.
Hall said they visited Peven in person to remind him of his violations as a healthcare professional.
Hall says they revealed to Peven that they knew the truth about their conception. She says Peven was surprised that they had figured out the truth.
Dr. Peven eventually admitted that he threw away the sperm that Hall’s parents provided for the conception. He told Hall this was to ensure the semen was viable, citing issues with the timing of the procedure.
After this experience, Hall reached out to a national nonprofit called “Right to Know.” It provides services like education, mental health resources and legal help to people who have made recent discoveries with their own genetics.
“We started working in Michigan because of Dr. Peven and Jaime. We worked with her and her representative Roth to propose legislation to make broad-based fertility fraud a crime in Michigan,” Kara Rubinstein-Deyerin, co-founder of the group, said.
“It’s important to include broad-based fraud,” Rubinstein-Deyerin said. “Language that covers all of the types of frauds that occur in the fertility industry, and a sufficient statute of limitations.”
Hall said the entire experience has been a shocking journey.
“I’ve always been raised that, you know, who you are is not necessarily determined by your DNA, the person you are, the way you treat other people. But having his DNA, it’s a whole new thing,” Hall said. “You look in the mirror and say, ‘I wonder if I look like his mom?'”
Hall also said it’s important for everyone to know their medical records, DNA history and other personal information. She hopes speaking out about her experience will create change and more laws for doctors to follow dealing with fertility.