A Dutch fertility doctor who used his own sperm to father 49 children, without telling their mothers he was the donor, may have even more children.
The case of Dr. Jan Karbaat, who died in 2017, continues to rivet the Netherlands, due to its complicated mix of unethical medical behaviour, privacy concerns, DNA testing, legal wrangling and the rights of children to know who their parents are.
At the time of writing, another three have come forward suspecting they may have also been conceived using Karbatt’s sperm. DNA tests initially revealed that Karbaat was the biological father of 49 children, most of whom are now adults. Publicity surrounding the case means that the extended family may grow even larger as more people seek to check their DNA against Karbaat’s.
Karbaat’s fertility clinic in the town of Barendrecht, a suburb of Rotterdam, was forced to close down in 2009 due to poor administration and record keeping. The doctor died shortly before a legal battle began two years ago to check whether he was indeed the biological father of children born after their parents underwent treatment at his clinic.
Until 2004, people in the Netherlands who donated sperm or eggs could do so anonymously and it is alleged that Karbaat was able to use the cloak of secrecy that surrounded sperm and egg donations in the 1970s and ’80s to father so many.
The case has and will continue, to prompt legal battles around anonymity. In a recent legal battle, the doctor’s family had said its privacy was being called into question, but the court’s ruling placed the children’s rights first over the privacy rights of Karbaat’s family. The ruling is seen by many as the first step towards allowing children of anonymous donors to seek out their heritage.