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Why Indiana is one of the few states with a fertility fraud law

Indiana is currently one of just a handful of states with a law against “fertility fraud.” The law, passed in 2019, has both criminal and civil ramifications. Under the law, a person can be charged with a Level 6 felony for “misrepresentation relating to: (1) a medical procedure, device, or drug; and (2) human reproductive material.” 

Victims also have up to five years to sue the alleged perpetrator. The clock on that starts either when the fraud is discovered or a person confesses to the crime. However, victims have complained that the law isn’t retroactive.

The doctor behind the law

That means the doctor whose actions were chiefly responsible for the law being enacted can’t be charged under it. The infamous doctor, who’s now the subject of a Netflix documentary, faced other criminal charges. He and the clinic he worked at have paid over $1 million to settle numerous lawsuits. His medical malpractice insurance likely covered a portion of that.

The Indiana fertility doctor used his own sperm during the 1970s and 1980s to impregnate about 50 patients without their knowledge. It’s not known exactly how many children he fathered. It wasn’t until 2016 that he faced any criminal charges – two counts of felony obstruction of justice for making false statements to the Indiana attorney general’s office when he denied his guilt. He eventually pled guilty and paid a $500 fine.

Victims are working to strengthen the law

Some of the doctor’s victims, including children he fathered who are now adults, are outspoken about their dissatisfaction that he couldn’t be charged with under the new law or with other more serious crimes. According to one Indiana University law professor, people can’t be charged for something that wasn’t a crime at the time they allegedly did it.

The Indiana law, however, could be amended, according to one state lawmaker behind it. Some victims are working with other states to draft similar laws while advocating for more serious penalties here. One said, “I want to see the people who have engaged in this egregious, horrific, abhorrent conduct to be held responsible, whether that’s criminally, whether that’s civilly.”

As medical technology advances, so too do the ways it can be misused – intentionally or unintentionally – to cause harm. The best first step for anyone who believes they’re the victim of medical malpractice is to seek legal advice.