Our Father: Who was fertility doctor Donald Cline and what did he do?

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Our Father takes up the harrowing story of medical malpractice that has affected dozens of families

Our Father is a new Netflix feature-length documentary that explores the strange case of Donald Cline, an Indiana fertility doctor, who traded donated sperm for his own.

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Dozens of women gave birth to Cline’s biological children without their consent or knowledge while he was practicing in the 1970s and later.

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Cline had a long career as a respected fertility doctor, and it wasn’t until the 21st century that the first reports of his deception came to light, three decades after they first took place.

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Keith Boyle as Donald Cline in Our Father

What is “Our Father” about?

The documentary tells the story of Jacoba Ballard, who found out about the scam through a home DNA test, and her half-siblings.

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It is estimated that she has more than 50 half-siblings through Cline’s actions, although the number could be as high as 90.

Narrated by Cline’s grown children, Our Father follows the criminal investigation into Cline, examining his motives and the impact his abuse had on those he deceived.

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Who is Donald Cline?

Donald Cline was recognized as one of the leading infertility specialists in the city of Indianapolis for three decades from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.

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Couples hoping to start families would visit Cline and seek his help in conceiving a child.

Cline told his patients that they received sperm from doctors or medical students and that sperm from a single donor would not be used more than three times.

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Donald Cline fathered between 50 and 90 children by his patients without their knowledge or consent

However, Cline used his own sperm to fertilize his patients without telling them, and as a result of this ruse he is said to have fathered more than 50 children in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cline’s medical fraud took place years before DNA testing became available, but as technology advanced, his deception was discovered.

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How was Donal Cline caught?

Jacoba Ballard, who believed she was an only child conceived by a sperm donor, took a DNA test and found she had seven half-siblings.

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Normal practice in fertility medicine would ensure that a donor’s sperm was not used as often, and as Jacoba and her siblings continued to research her family tree, they uncovered the extent of Cline’s wrongdoing.

Cline left his practice in 2009, but there were no state laws criminalizing his bizarre actions.

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The disgraced doctor was eventually convicted of two crimes of obstruction of justice in 2017 and received a one-year suspended sentence, avoiding jail time.

Where is Donald Cline now?

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In 2018, after being convicted of obstruction of justice, Cline relinquished his medical license to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, which voted to prevent him from ever regaining it.

Cline is now in his 80s and his exact whereabouts are unknown as he has been keeping a low profile since revelations about his behavior came to light.

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In 2019, Indiana became the first US state to legislate against fertility doctors using their own sperm without their patients’ consent.

It is likely that it will never be known exactly how many children Cline fathered through illegal means.

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Where can I watch Out Father?

Our Father will be released on Netflix on May 11th.

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