GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4) – From western Colorado to Denver, South Dakota and to Texas and beyond, as many as nine women and men across the country are piecing together some shocking, and unexpected, family ties. They have learned through commercial DNA databases that they are all related to each other as half siblings, and they suspect a Grand Junction fertility doctor, Paul Jones, secretly inseminated their mothers with his sperm.
“It shakes your identity and where you fit in this world and that was extremely difficult,” said one of the women, who now lives in Denver. She asked that her identity not be revealed.
In the 1980s, her mother sought help from Dr. Jones at his Grand Junction fertility clinic as she was having trouble conceiving children. Her mother chose to be artificially inseminated and helped select a sperm donor. More than 30 years later, her daughter entered her DNA into the Ancestry.com database. She was confused when she found out there were no matches on the paternal side. At about the same time, she says two women contacted her and said the Ancestry database showed that they were all half siblings. Those women said their mothers had also been artificially inseminated under the guidance of Dr. Jones.
“I started to think something odd was happening, so I had some suspicions that a donor per se had not been used and somebody else had been involved,” said the woman, who is in her 30s.
“The fact all these women went to go see this doctor for help getting pregnant and were all related to each other is not a coincidence; there’s something happening here,” said the Denver woman.
Soon, the group of apparent siblings grew to a total of nine, as others used commercial DNA databases and learned they had sisters and brothers they never knew about. All of their mothers had fertility issues and had sought assistance from Dr. Jones.
Through genetic detective work, the nine women and men learned that their DNA all connected back to the family of Dr. Paul Jones.
CBS4 spoke to Jones by phone. “I’m not talking to anyone for this,” said Jones, refusing to address the concerns about what the men and women alleged happened at his fertility clinic. In a second phone call, he again refused to address the concerns.
An attorney believed to represent Jones did not respond to numerous phone calls or emails. Jones is now 80 years old and still has an active Colorado medical license. State records show he has had no disciplinary action during the course of his medical career. The Grand Junction clinic said Jones has not worked there for about three years.
The Denver woman who contacted CBS4 has retained attorney Paula Greisen to try to get answers about what happened at the fertility clinic.
“At a certain point there are too many coincidences,” said Greisen. “This many people, this many DNA matches back to this same clinic. There comes a time where you say you must have known what was going on — tell us.”
Greisen and her clients say the inseminations — which all came from the same male donor — occurred over the span of about 20 years, further suggesting the donor was connected to the clinic.
The attorney says she intends to file a lawsuit on behalf of the woman and her mother and potentially seek criminal remedies for whomever deceived her client during the insemination process.
“If the dots are connected and this person does turn out to be the donor, there’s just a basic question of morality. If he is not the donor I invite him to share with us who is. What member of his family served as the donor unbeknownst to my client?”
Greisen calls what they believe happened to her client and daughter a case of fraud.
Pat Fitz-Gerald, a Denver based attorney, represents another group of a dozen adult children and their parents who all believe Dr. Jones used his sperm to inseminate their mothers.
“It feels like such a betrayal,” said the attorney.
“How unconscionable to prey on people who are coming to a doctor because they are having a hard time starting a family”, said Fitz-Gerald.
He said he has already filed a complaint with Colorado medical regulators about Dr. Jones and is planning to file a civil lawsuit this week. Asked what his clients want, Fitz-Gerald said “They want him to admit to what he’s done. They abhor his behavior.”
A 39-year-old woman who was born in Grand Junction told CBS4 she is certain Jones is her father.
“It’s just disgusting,” she said.
She said her mother thought she was being impregnated with sperm from an anonymous donor, but DNA testing now shows she was fathered by someone in the Jones family. She said she wants Jones to “own up publicly to what he has done.”
So-called “fertility fraud” has occurred in multiple states and countries and is being revealed via home DNA tests. In a widely covered case of fertility fraud, an Indianapolis area fertility specialist, Donald Cline, used his own sperm to impregnate at least three dozen women in the 1970s and 1980s and at least 61 people have claimed Cline is their biological father. In the Netherlands, a fertility specialist named Jan Karbaat fathered 56 children via women who visited his clinic.
Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University has studied fertility fraud and suggests doctors do this for “power reasons” or mental health issues or narcissistic issues. Madeira also said another possible explanation is that doctors believed using their sperm would increase their patient’s odds of conception.
Three states have passed laws criminalizing fertility fraud. In Texas it is classified as a form of sexual assault. Attorney Fitz-Gerald said he hoped this case might prompt the Colorado legislature to enact a law specifically addressing fertility fraud.
The Denver woman who spoke to CBS4 said discovering that her mother’s fertility doctor — or his family member — may be her father has turned her life upside down. She said she is anxious much of the time, can’t sleep and suffers from night terrors.
“I want to know why. I don’t understand why someone would do something like this. I want to know why my mother was chosen. I want justice. I want this doctor to pay. I want to send a message this is not okay, you can’t do this to a patient. You can’t ruin someone’s life on a whim.”
Fitz-Gerald said he believes the number of offspring traced back to the family of Dr. Jones will soon grow.