Dozens allegedly fathered by CT doctor push for ‘fertility fraud’ crackdown

A lawsuit and a separate legal filing claim that Dr. Burton Caldwell, now 85 years old, fraudulently used his own sperm to father at least 22 of his patients’ children during the 1980s.

John Craven

Mar 11, 2024, 10:26 PM

Updated 34 days ago


Nearly two dozen people, who accuse a New Haven fertility doctor of secretly fathering them, urged Connecticut lawmakers to crack down on “fertility fraud” on Monday.
One woman testified that she unknowingly dated her half-brother – not discovering the truth until years later, when she took an online DNA test.
The case sounds like a lurid crime show.
A lawsuit and a separate legal filing claim that Dr. Burton Caldwell, now 85 years old, fraudulently used his own sperm to father at least 22 of his patients’ children during the 1980s.
“Dr. Caldwell performed an artificial insemination on Doreen Pierson using what she believed to be donor sperm from an anonymous Yale medical intern,” the lawsuit states. “On or about Aug. 5, 2022, [her daughter] Janine Pierson confronted Dr. Caldwell at his home and he admitted to using his own sperm to artificially inseminate numerous patients.”
Janine Pierson told the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee that the experience traumatized her.
“At any time, we could find out we dated a sibling, a close friend or relative,” she said.
That’s exactly what happened to Victoria Hill, who grew up in Wallingford.
Hill’s high school boyfriend – another one of Caldwell’s secret children – turned out to be her half-brother. Hill didn’t discover the truth until she took an online DNA test in 2020, years after the two consummated their relationship.
“He texted me and it was a screen shot of the 23andMe connection, and it said, ‘You are my sister,’” Hill said.
Her mother told legislators that she’s still reeling from the news.
“We trusted the doctors completely,” Maralee Hill said. “Never thought he would betray his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and betray his patients.”
Hill tried to sue, but lawyers turned her away.
“They all said, ‘I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. I’m surprised that there’s nothing we can do, but unfortunately, that’s just what it is.”
On Monday, Hill and others asked state lawmakers to pass a bill letting victims sue doctors for “fertility fraud.” They also want to repeal the statute of limitation in those cases.
“In most of these cases – virtually all of these cases – no one finds out until the children participate in 23andMe or,” said Pierson’s attorney, Steve Errante.
Doreen Pierson’s lawsuit accuses Caldwell of assault and battery, as well as inflicting emotional distress. It says Caldwell “has an extensive family history of Type I and II diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, and arthritis, which were likely to be passed down to any and all of his descendants.”
Caldwell’s attorney did not return calls for comment, but he is asking a judge to dismiss Pierson’s case.
Another patient is asking a judge to force Yale New Haven Hospital, where Caldwell practiced, to turn over medical records.
“Yale New Haven Health and Yale are aware of this request for discovery and are hopeful the court will again deny the request, as it did last year, as there was no evidence of their involvement in the conduct alleged against Dr. Caldwell,” said YNHH spokesperson Mark Dantonio.
Allison Vece told lawmakers about her experience with a different fertility doctor.
“Not only was he my mother’s fertility specialist and her lifelong gynecologist; he was also my gynecologist as a teen,” she said.
But at least one lawmaker worries that the legislation goes too far.
“We are permitting the person who now got their desperately desired child to sue. And my thought was, what are the damages?” said state Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Wallingford), the top Republican on the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
But Hill said, this can’t happen to someone else.
“I don't think Dr. Burton Caldwell will have to take any real accountability. It might just be too late,” she said. “But moving forward, I’d like to prevent this from happening.”
There is no federal law against fertility fraud, but 13 states have enacted their own bans. In Connecticut, the Judiciary Committee has until April 1 to vote on the legislation.

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