Families alleging that an Ottawa fertility doctor used his own sperm as well as that of the wrong donors in performing artificial inseminations are poised to share millions in compensation after a proposed settlement was reached in the case.
The proposed settlement of more than $13 million was announced Wednesday as an Ontario court certified the lawsuit against Dr. Norman Barwin as a class action.
The lawsuit was launched in 2016 by Davina, Daniel and Rebecca Dixon after a DNA test revealed Rebecca was Barwin’s biological daughter.
It has since grown to include scores of other plaintiffs, including former patients and the children conceived through the treatments they received.
Among them are people who allege they do not know whose sperm was used for conception, when that of either a spouse or selected donor was meant to be used, or whose sperm was provided for a particular purpose but allegedly used to conceive for another patient.
Court documents say that while Barwin has agreed to the settlement, he continues to deny the allegations and any liability.
The settlement is set to be reviewed by the court on Nov. 1. If it is approved, anyone not yet included in the class action will have 120 days to come forward.
Part of the settlement fund is earmarked for the operation of a DNA database meant to help find matches among former patients who left semen with Barwin and children who don’t know the identity of their biological father, court documents say.
Though some have successfully found half-siblings or sperm donors through commercial DNA websites, the database aims to provide a private and controlled mechanism for doing so, they read.
“These individuals and/or their parental guardians are concerned that they have half-siblings whom they do not know. They are also concerned about the risk of consanguinity (related by blood) if they unknowingly were to meet and form a romantic relationship with a half-sibling,” the documents say.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued Barwin had a duty of care to his patients and to the children he helped them conceive to ensure he used the sperm selected for artificial insemination.
Barwin gave up his medical licence years ago, and it was revoked by Ontario’s medical regulator in 2019. As part of his penalty, Barwin — who pleaded no contest to misconduct allegations — was ordered to pay a fine of more than $10,000.
—Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press