Look, there’s sexual harassment and there’s sexual assault. The lines are pretty damn clear—you just don’t hurt anybody, and you damn sure don’t put your hands on them if they haven’t asked you to. Beyond these hopefully well-established boundaries, there are scenarios so bizarre, so absurd, that they’re almost too unbelievable to process. This is one of those. In a scenario that could’ve been taken straight out of Jane The Virgin, a Canadian fertility doctor has casually been fertilizing women with his own sperm—for decades—and is now facing a class-action lawsuit for wrongfully impregnating at least 11 women.
According to Buzzfeed, the allegations against doctor Norman Barwin, filed in Ottawa, Canada, have resulted in DNA tests proving that he is the biological father of at least 11 children. The 2016 lawsuit, which just reached class-action status this month, also uncovered that Barwin fertilized 16 women with samples they had not chosen themselves, with the identity of those fathers now unknown. These seemingly purposefully incorrect inseminations occurred between the 1970s and the early 2000s.
Barwin had reportedly been a well-regarded fertility doctor throughout his career, up until now, that is. He was inducted into the Order of Canada, the second-highest honor for Canadian civilians, and was even nicknamed “the Baby God” by his peers. As if that wasn’t enough, Barwin was the president of the Canadian Fertility Society—which is surely making Canadian women shudder with concern now that this news is out.
Barwin did lose his civilian honor distinction in 2013, however, after a guilty plea regarding professional misconduct. He was barred from practicing medicine for two months and officially relinquished his license a year later. “I regret I’ve caused my patients any difficulty,” said Barwin after the 2013 probe. “My intention was always to do my best for them.” If Barwin’s best is personally defined by impregnating women with his own sperm, then he did a tremendous job. For everyone else on this planet, though, the consensus is probably measured differently.
“There’s an immediate breach of trust,” said Peter Cronyn, an attorney involved in the lawsuit. “Women that we’ve talked to who went to see him speak of terms like ‘violation.’” One of these women Cronyn refers to is Davina Dixon, who initiated this investigation when she claimed her husband Daniel was not the biological father of their daughter Rebecca. “I now have 10 siblings,” said Rebecca. For Kat Palmer, another patient of Barwin’s, the mystery wasn’t all that nebulous—Barwin himself confirmed via email to her that he was her child’s father. The misplaced confidence and gall on display here is utterly baffling.
According to Buzzfeed, the Ottawa law firm Nelligan O’Brien Payne said it was developing further methods to establish just exactly how many patients have been affected by Barwin’s malpractice and how many half-siblings now exist. The firm has reportedly contacted over 150 patients who “have been adversely affected by Dr. Barwin’s fertility practice going back as far as 1978. Hopefully, all these kids can meet up one day, sit around a large dinner table, and talk about what a crazy kook their dad was.