'He's someone I can't escape because his DNA is in me, his DNA is in my son,' says alleged fertility fraud victim David Berry
NEW YORK -- People have been connecting the dots and claiming they're not just half-siblings, but also victims of fertility fraud.
It's a story first seen in the New York Times. ABC's Juju Chang spoke with two of the half-siblings.
David Berry spent 37 years thinking he was Italian and Irish until he took a DNA test.
"There was no Italian. There was, there was no Irish, any of the things that I was led to believe," Berry said.
It was the shock of a lifetime. His dad was not his biological father. Berry became a DNA detective, unraveling his biological history. He discovered that he and 36-year-old Morgan Helquist are half-siblings.
"I got this message and it said, I think we're related," Helquist said. "I grabbed his face I just looked and I was like, 'Why is your face on my face?' Like, I just couldn't understand, it was the craziest experience I've ever had."
But they kept finding more and more half-siblings.
"Then there was five of us and we were all the same age. And six, and then seven, and it started to feel like, well, if there's seven, there might be 20 and if there's 20, there might be 100. And I started to feel terrified," Helquist said.
The half-siblings had more than just DNA in common. Berry and Helquist said their mothers used artificial insemination, using the same fertility doctor, Morris Wortman, in Rochester, New York. A biological daughter Wortman raised, agreed to take a DNA test to try and fill the missing puzzle piece.
The result: Berry said she matched him, Helquist and all the siblings.
"I'm the product of something that should have never happened with an unconscionable violation of ethics at a minimum. He's someone I can't escape because his DNA is in me, his DNA is in my son. I wrestle with that. From the first time I held my son, that man was in the room with me," Berry said.
For Helquist, this story takes a darker turn. For the previous decade, Wortman was also her gynecologist.
When asked how she told her mother, Helquist said, "When we found out, there wasn't any need to tell her. I was screaming and sobbing at the top of my lungs."
Helquist filed a lawsuit against Wortman in September, alleging, among other things, that he committed medical malpractice by treating her when he likely knew he was her biological father. Wortman's team denied the charges.
"He knew the whole time who he was, and I didn't. He took away that choice for me," Helquist said.
Both Berry's and Helquist's mothers said Wortman told them he was using sperm from an anonymous medical student. Berry's mom is still reeling from the news.
"He had my permission to use a donor, specifically a medical student. He did not have my permission to use his own sperm for a donation," Karen Berry said.
George Washington University Law School Professor Sonia Suter weighed in on the situation.
"It feels like a sexual assault. The problem is, it doesn't meet the definitions of sexual assault or battery in a lot of ways and so there was no criminal violation because there was no law that covered this particular act," Suter said.
Seven states specifically penalize physicians for fertility fraud. Other states, like New York, only have laws pending. For now, Helquist is the only one of the half-siblings who may have a legal cause of action.
"I do not have a fertility fraud case. I have a case because he touched my body without my consent," Helquist said.
Helquist said, despite the pain, there is a silver lining.
"David and my siblings are, it's not even bittersweet, it's that they're the shining glue that holds me together during all of this," Helquist said.