The proliferation of DNA tests has changed many people’s lives. With a kit you can buy at your local CVS or through the internet, people can learn about their health, their ancestry, and other basic things including the identity of their parents. By swabbing the inside of your cheek or supply a urine sample, you can learn so much about yourself and where you come from. But for one Washington woman, her world was turned upside down after a simple test.
36-year-old Kelli Rowlette was never told the truth about how her parents came to be pregnant with her. And after a DNA test, she learned that the man she thought was her father all these years was not a biological match. Instead, the name of her father was someone else who her parents both knew back when they were trying to get pregnant with Kelli. It was the name of their fertility doctor.
Rowlette’s parents first went to Dr. Gerald E. Mortimer in 1980. He told Rowlette’s father that had a low sperm count and told the couple it would be challenging for them to conceive naturally. Instead, Dr. Mortimer urged Sally Ashby, the mother-to-be, to get artificially inseminated with a swirl of sperm from her husband and an anonymous college student. Mortimer described this donor as a college student who was “taller than 6 feet with brown hair and blue eyes.”
Rowlette took a DNA test from Ancestry.com last summer. And that’s when she learned the truth about her father. It was not the man she had called daddy all her life. It was not some six-foot-tall college student. It was Dr. Mortimer.
Rowlette had no idea why her parents’ fertility doctor would be listed on the DNA results. She had expected to see her father Howard Fowler’s name on the results. And when she confronted her mother about the results, she was horrified to see Dr. Mortimer’s name there.
And that’s when the puzzle started to untwist the scandal. Dr. Mortimer had used his own sperm instead of this alleged college student to impregnate Rowlette’s mother.
Now the family is suing the doctor on charges of medical negligence, battery, fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract.
“When Ms. Ashby saw Dr. Mortimer’s name, she was devastated. Dr. Mortimer did not match the donor specifications.”
The lawsuit also claims that Dr. Mortimer remained a close contact for years after Rowlette was born. And when the family told him they were moving, he broke into tears. Now they realize that he was sad that his daughter was going. They are using this emotional break down as evidence he knew he was her father.
Dr. Mortimer signed up for the DNA service but did not make his information private. This made it possible for Rowlette to see her match.
The results have put the family through emotional “torment.” And Dr. Mortimer has not issued a comment or public statement about his action. It is unclear if he did this to other patients as well.