Rise of Use of Ancestry.com, 23 and Me Home DNA Kits Revealing Widespread ObGyn/Fertility Doctor Abuses; Leading IVF Attorney Adam Wolf Says Regulation Needed to “Rein in a Profession Run Amuck”
WASHINGTON, D.C.///September 16, 2020///Multiple families victimized by “fertility fraud” took action today by filing cases against doctors in California and Virginia/West Virginia. The doctors are alleged to have inserted their own sperm into their patients, contrary to the doctors’ representations and their patients’ wishes.
The cases being filed today are the tip of the iceberg in hundreds of fertility fraud cases that will emerge across the U.S. thanks to home DNA test kits, according to Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway’s Adam Wolf, the leading U.S. lawyer handling fertility, IVF, and related genetic material lawsuits.
Wolf, who has been in the forefront of pushing for tougher regulation of IVF clinics and other medical facilities handling genetic material, said that abuses by the rapidly growing number of medical professionals within the IVF/fertility industry will not stop until the U.S. imposes tighter regulation.
In one case involving a doctor still licensed to practice medicine in Virginia/West Virginia, a San Francisco area woman learned via home DNA testing that both of her children were the result of her fertility doctor, Dr. Michael S. Kiken, secretly utilizing his own sperm in her fertility treatments. Despite Kiken’s assurances, the sperm was from neither a healthy nor anonymous donor. Rather, the Livermore, CA mother learned that her daughter inherited from Kiken a serious disease, Tay Sachs, which can be passed on to future generations. Kiken holds medical licenses in numerous states and has practiced in California, Pittsburgh, the greater Washington, D.C. area, Richmond, VA, Lynchburg, VA, and Martinsburg, WV.
The second lawsuit involves Dr. Phillip Milgram, who has a checkered history of practice in California, New York, and Las Vegas. A San Diego woman and her then-husband sought out the help of Milgram in 1988 for artificial insemination, which resulted in the birth of their son. Although Milgram told his then-patient that he would use the sperm of a healthy and anonymous sperm donor, he instead injected his own sperm into her.
Milgram later was stripped of his medical license in California for drug-related conduct. He faced accusations of practicing medicine while intoxicated, failing to maintain records, and a host of other offenses. He later regained his license and now practices what he calls “addiction medicine” in the San Diego area and is an attending physician at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
In the last six years, attorney Adam Wolf has handled hundreds of cases regarding IVF/genetic material that have involved well over 1,000 victims. In 2019, Wolf spearheaded the Peiffer Wolf push for national legislation to rein in the abuses of IVF and fertility clinics.
Wolf said: “The actions of these doctors are horrific. The gross misconduct committed by these doctors is a profoundly intimate betrayal. The United States is on the brink of uncovering thousands of fertility fraud cases, in which IVF/Ob Gyn doctors have abused their position of trust and authority by secretly using their own sperm in carrying out fertility treatments. We have to decide as a nation that the Wild West days for the IVF/fertility industry are over. That is why we are renewing the call today for federal regulation to rein in an industry run amuck.”
Katie Richards is the San Francisco-area mother in the case against Dr. Kiken, who inseminated her with his own sperm twice, resulting in her two children. She said: “Dr. Kiken used his own sperm. It’s sickening. Now, I have to live knowing that he violated me, and that my children – whom I love dearly – are a result of his disgusting conduct. All of our memories, and all of the memories that we have yet to make are forever tainted.”
Dallas resident Julie Druyor is the daughter of Katie Richards. She said: “I used to look in the mirror and recognize who was looking back at me. Now, sometimes I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize myself. Sometimes, I see ‘him.’ Sometimes, I see the man who violated my mother’s trust and turned our worlds upside down. I’m a product of my mother’s abuser.”
Bev Willhelm, of San Diego, is the mother in the case against Dr. Milgram, who used his own sperm to inseminate her. She said: “Instead of using the sperm of an anonymous donor and a physically and mentally healthy individual, as he promised, Dr. Milgram used the sperm of a drug addict who had serious mental health issues … his own sperm.”
Jimmy Mallas, Jr., also of San Diego, is the son of Beverly Willhelm. He said: “Who was looking out for my mother? Who is looking out for all of the mothers? Not only do I want answers to these questions, but most of all, I want justice for my mother and my family. And, I want to expose anyone else out there who also did this, and who is now praying that more people like me don’t take a home DNA test.”
Most of the individuals who are the product of fertility fraud will be 30-45 years old, reflecting the advent of inexpensive and widely available home DNA testing kits, such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, which are often purchased as holiday presents. Wolf noted that families across America may be just a Christmas gift away from learning about a dark and unexpected part of their genetic past.
In August 2019, Peiffer Wolf published The Fertility Center Regulation Crisis in the U.S., a report calling on Congress to impose a system of tight and highly transparent IVF clinic oversight. In addition to identifying several glaring weaknesses and the general lack of regulatory oversight of the IVF/fertility centers in the U.S., the Peiffer Wolf report identified the much tougher government standards in the United Kingdom as an excellent model for this nation.
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Joseph Cartellone, of Delaware, OH, said: “Never in my worst nightmare did I think that the Christmas gift of DNA testing for my family would unveil this kind of abuse of our trust by the very professionals from whom we sought help. This has been extremely difficult for my family. I want to do whatever it takes to make sure no one else has to go through what we did.”
After being contacted by a client whose embryos were lost or destroyed years ago, the attorneys of Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway fought to hold the clinic accountable for its negligence. Once the pressure was put on the clinic, more families approached us with similar stories. It was only then that we realized how rampant and reckless certain clinics and facilities across the country truly are.
Since then, we’ve been able to represent hundreds of the strongest and most amazing families in a number of fertility issues: lost embryos, destroyed embryos, inadequate medical testing, fertility doctor misconduct, fertility fraud, embryo implantation into the wrong woman, wrong sperm used to fertilize embryos, and countless others. Standing beside our clients, we’ve been able to provide a platform for other families to step forward and tell their stories. Moreover, we’ve been able to provide a pathway to recovery for their losses.
Attorney Adam Wolf said: “Keep in mind that these families have entrusted their most valuable property in the entire world – their frozen embryos – to these facilities and clinics. We want to make sure that these devastating tragedies never happen again.”
The roots and possible solutions to the worsening situation at such facilities are addressed in the new Peiffer Wolf issue briefer, “The Fertility Center Regulation Crisis in the U.S.”:
- U.S. fertility centers are almost entirely unregulated today, unlike the tighter oversight in such nations as Estonia, Abu Dhabi, Germany and the United Kingdom. In this nation, nail salons are subject to far tighter state and federal controls than U.S. fertility clinics.
- For U.S. fertility centers, the result is a near “Wild West” situation where meaningful oversight is absent, error reporting is essentially voluntary, and tragic cases of lost, destroyed or otherwise improperly handled embryos are on the rise, including more than 5,000 embryos and eggs known to have been lost or destroyed in less than two years. As one expert notes, America’s hands-off approach to oversight of reproductive practices has “left a gaping hole for a booming, unregulated market fraught with fraud and abuse.” In 2016, a national ratings website found that 18-24 percent of fertility patients reported damaged or destroyed samples, among a host of other errors.
Peiffer Wolf is nationally recognized for representing victims of fertility clinic misconduct and fertility doctor misconduct, including destruction or loss of eggs and embryos. If you or your family have been the victim of a reckless or negligent fertility clinic, fertility medical center, or fertility doctor, please Contact the Fertility Lawyers at Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway for a FREE Consultation by filling out our simple online Contact Form or by calling 415-766-3545.
Unfortunately, some of the following issues that are clients experience are all too common in an unregulated IVF and Fertility industry:
Adam Wolf, attorney and partner, Peiffer Wolf, said: “My law firm has represented hundreds of families and individuals who have had their hopes and dreams dashed by outrageous conduct of the U.S. fertility industry. We think of fertility clinics as highly professional organizations governed by strict rules and staffed by caring experts. But, the truth is some of them are simply business people making billions of dollars in profits.”
Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway is a national law firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, Austin, and New Orleans. Peiffer Wolf is nationally recognized for representing victims in which fertility clinics were accused of misconduct, including destroying or losing eggs and embryos. This is a highly technical area of law and science; individuals seeking legal representation in such matters would be well advised to look to a law firm that has successfully handled such cases in the past. Contact Us by calling 415-766-3545 or by filling out an online Contact Form for a FREE Consultation.