Sharon Hayes, a 67-year-old resident of Hauser, Idaho, has filed a lawsuit against her former fertility doctor, Dr. David R. Claypool, alleging that he secretly employed his own sperm to impregnate her 34 years ago.
The lawsuit comes to light amidst a growing number of similar cases emerging due to the popularity of at-home DNA testing, which allows individuals to uncover information about their genetic heritage.
Ms. Hayes sought fertility assistance from Dr. Claypool, an obstetrician and gynecologist based in Spokane, Washington, in 1989, as she and her then-husband were experiencing difficulty conceiving. Her preference was for an anonymous sperm donor.
According to the complaint filed on Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court, Dr. Claypool assured her that the donor would be selected based on specific traits she chose, such as hair and eye color, and that the donor would undergo health and genetic screening. He charged $100 in cash for each of the multiple treatments, asserting that the funds were intended for college or medical students who were contributing the sperm, as stated in the lawsuit.
The shocking revelation emerged when Ms. Hayes’s 33-year-old daughter, Brianna Hayes, identified her biological father by submitting her DNA to the genetic testing and ancestry website, 23andMe. Brianna Hayes expressed her dismay, saying, “It’s been an identity crisis, for sure. This was hidden from me my whole life. I felt traumatized for my mom, and the fact that I’m a product of his actions is off-putting.”
Additionally, Brianna Hayes discovered that she had at least 16 other half-siblings in the area. Whether other women are pursuing legal action against Dr. Claypool remains uncertain.
Attempts to contact Dr. Claypool through listed phone numbers were unsuccessful. His attorney, Drew Dalton, declined to comment in response to an emailed request, explaining that he had not yet spoken with his client. Dr. Dalton informed The Seattle Times that the matter had undergone mediation. However, it was reported that Dr. Claypool claimed he had no knowledge of the allegations and had never met Sharon Hayes. He ceased practicing medicine in 2005.
The emergence of cases involving “fertility fraud” has coincided with the proliferation of online DNA services. Last year, a New York Times report revealed that over 50 U.S. fertility doctors faced accusations of fraud in connection with donated sperm. A Netflix documentary focused on an Indiana fertility specialist who secretly fathered at least 94 children while inseminating patients. In a similar case, a Colorado jury awarded nearly $9 million to three families who accused a fertility doctor of using his own sperm to inseminate mothers who had requested anonymous donors.
Sharon Hayes’s lawsuit includes allegations of fraud, failure to obtain consent, a violation of state medical malpractice law, and a violation of state consumer protection law for Dr. Claypool’s “scheme to charge cash for his own sperm, while he was representing it was a donor’s sperm,” as stated by RJ Ermola, an attorney representing Hayes.
Brianna Hayes, who has connected with her half-siblings but has never met Dr. Claypool, initially sought genetic information to understand her health issues, including a childhood battle with leukemia, which “conditions that do not run on my mom’s side of the family,” she explained. She expressed her mother’s struggle with the revelation, saying, “She’s a puddle this morning.
She feels immense guilt for putting me in this situation. I told her, ‘This wasn’t you at all – you went through all the appropriate channels to do what you needed to do. You were just being a mom, wanting to be a loving mother.'”