Woman Says DNA Test Pegged Parents' Fertility Doc as Her Father

Marcia Frellick

April 06, 2018

Kelli Rowlette, a 36-year-old woman in Benton County, Washington, who sent a DNA sample to Ancestry.com last year, was confounded by one of the results: a father-daughter match with a man whose name she did not know, according to a lawsuit made public this week.

The name was Gerald Mortimer, MD, a now-retired obstetrician-gynecologist. Rowlette would come to find out that he was the fertility doctor for her parents, Howard Fowler and Sally Ashby, now divorced, the lawsuit states.

The discovery of the connection led to the filing of the lawsuit in US District Court in Pocatello, Idaho, on March 30. It names Mortimer and his wife, Linda Gay McKinnon Mortimer, as well as Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls, alleging medical malpractice, fraud, and breach of contract, among other allegations. It was filed jointly by Rowlette, Ashby, and Fowler, who all live in Eastern Washington. Mortimer and his wife live together in Bonneville County, Idaho, according to the lawsuit.

Mix of Sperm Suggested

The suit says Rowlette hadn't known that before her birth, her parents were having trouble conceiving. In 1980, the couple lived in Idaho Falls and sought Mortimer's help at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls. The lawsuit says he recommended that they use both Fowler's sperm and sperm from an anonymous sperm donor to aid conception. He said they could select a donor with traits they desired. The sperm mix would be 85% Fowler's and 15% from an anonymous donor, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the couple agreed, paid the fees, and gave specifications for the donor — a college student who resembled Fowler and was more than six feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes. The lawsuit alleges that though the doctor said he had found a donor that matched the description, he used his own sperm to impregnate Ashby in late summer 1980.

In May 1981, Mortimer delivered his own biological child, never telling the couple about the true source of the sperm, the lawsuit says. Ashby found out only when Rowlette shared the Ancestry.com results. She in turn told her ex-husband, they state in the lawsuit.

Mortimer remained their doctor for years, until they decided to move to Washington. He cried when Ashby let him know they were moving, according to the lawsuit.

Efforts to contact Mortimer for comment before publication were unsuccessful. According to CNN, the Mortimers have not listed a defense attorney with the clerk of courts.

A spokesperson at the Idaho Falls clinic where Mortimer worked read a statement to Medscape Medical News from Michael Wheiler, a lawyer representing the clinic: "None of the healthcare providers currently at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls were part of the practice in 1979-1980, and they diligently strive to provide care to their patients in compliance with the standards of healthcare practice."

The lawsuit says Rowlette and her parents are requesting an amount in excess of $75,000 plus costs, attorney fees, and interest.

It states, "Since discovering Dr Mortimer's actions, Ms Ashby, Mr Fowler and Mrs Rowlette have been suffering immeasurably."

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