Couple sue Vermont gynecologist for fathering child

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Florida couple is suing a Vermont doctor over a decades-old artificial insemination procedure in which he allegedly used his own semen.

The case filed this month in federal court in Burlington dates back to 1977 and targets Montpelier-based Dr. John Boyd Coates, III.

The couple, Cheryl Rousseau and Peter Rousseau, claim they signed a contract with Dr. Coates for him to artificially inseminate Cheryl using donated semen from an unnamed medical student who resembled her husband.

"This could not have been done accidentally," said Jerry O'Neill, the lawyer for the Rousseau family.

The family found out just recently when their now 41-year-old daughter wanted to find her genetic background to learn more about her health and background. She used websites like Ancestry.com and 23andme, which reportedly pointed to Coates.

"It was completely news to them. They had no expectation that this would turn up when their daughter did the research with respect to it," O'Neill said.

He says that Coates maintained a professional relationship but made a point to be close during the pregnancy.

"He made sure that he did the delivery of the child himself as opposed to someone else in his practice. He made certain he was there," O'Neill said.

The lawsuit is seeking damages from Coates and Central Vermont Medical Center, where Coates provided care to patients but was not an employee.

"It's fraud and it's a question of inserting genetic material in a woman -- not of an anonymous donor but rather the physician who is engaging in the conduct itself," O'Neill said.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: If she didn't do these genetic tests would she have ever known?
Jerry O'Neill: Unless Dr. Coates contacted her and told her that he was in fact her genetic father, she would have never known.

Coates, who still lives in Vermont, has not responded to the allegations in the lawsuit. His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Central Vermont Medical Center released a statement that said: "The claim against CVMC has neither a factual nor legal basis, and we will move promptly to have the lawsuit dismissed. It’s important to know Dr. Coates was never an employee of Central Vermont Hospital and at all times he had his own practice. Providing safe, high-quality patient care is always our focus."

O'Neill says there are examples from similar cases where the perpetrator secretly fathered other children.

"Around the country, if you look at it there have been physicians who have found to put their own sperm in and created children. It's been done in a serial way. There are multiple children for whom this has been done," O'Neill said.

He says he cannot speculate on a motive for the alleged insemination deception other than narcissism.



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