Former patients and children of a Canadian fertility doctor who used his own or unknown sperm to impregnate patients have been offered a C$13m ($10m, £7m) settlement agreement.
It is thought to be the first-ever legal settlement of its kind. Under the terms of the deal, claimants will be given compensation based on court-determined level of harm.
Money will also be set aside for a DNA database to allow dozens of children to identify their biological fathers. The class-action lawsuit currently includes 226 people. Dr Barwin worked at two clinics in Ottawa, Ontario.
Some couples who were told that the male partner’s sperm would be used were unknowingly given random samples, and in some cases, the doctor’s own. Some of the claims date back to the 1970s. Dr Barwin is now in his 80s and has not practiced since 2014.
The settlement must still be approved by a judge before any money will be made available. Rebecca Dixon, 31, found out that her real father was Dr Barwin – whose clinic her parents had visited – after she developed a disease that nobody else in her family had. She and her parents launched the lawsuit in 2016.
“I am not sure we will ever achieve closure,” she told the Ottawa-citizen newspaper. “It is something that will be with us for the rest of our lives. But the legal side wrapping up will allow people to come to a bit more peace with the situation.”
The proposal also calls for C$75,000 to be used to set up a database for children conceived at his clinics to find out the identity of their father. The purpose of the database will be to provide children with the opportunity to identify their biological fathers, gain access to medical history and to locate any half-siblings. Dr Barwin and his lawyer had no comment on the matter, but the settlement does not require the former fertility doctor to admit any fault.
He “has denied and continues to deny all of the plaintiffs’ claims in this action,” lawyers said in court documents filed on Wednesday. In 2019, Dr Barwin was stripped of his medical license by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which called his actions “beyond reprehensible”.