Donald Cline: true story of deceptive fertility doctor in Netflix documentary Our Father - how was he caught?

Our Father unpicks the harrowing story of medical malpractice that affected dozens of families

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

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

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

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 fraud as a result of a home DNA test, and her half-siblings.

She is estimated to have more than 50 half siblings through Cline’s actions, though the number could be as high as 90.

Our Father is narrated by Cline’s adult children and follows the criminal investigation into Cline, examines his motives and the impact that his abuse had on those he deceived.

Who is Donald Cline?

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

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

Cline told his patients that they were receiving sperm from medical residents or medical students and that no single donor’s sperm would be used more than three times.

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

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

Cline’s acts of medical fraud took place years before DNA testing became available, but with the advance of technology his deception was discovered.

How was Donal Cline caught?

Jacoba Ballard, who believed herself to be an only child conceived through a sperm donor, took a DNA test and found that she had seven half-siblings.

Normal practice in fertility medicine would ensure that a donor’s sperm was not used this many times, and as Jacoba and her siblings researched their family tree further, they uncovered the extent of Cline’s malpractice.

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

The disgraced doctor was eventually convicted on two felony counts of obstruction of justice in 2017, receiving a one year suspended sentence and thereby avoiding prison.

Where is Donald Cline now?

In 2018, after having been sentenced for obstruction of justice, Cline surrendered his medical licence to the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana which voted to prevent him from ever regaining it.

Cline is now in his 80s and his exact location is unknown, as he has kept a low profile since revelations about his behaviour came to light.

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

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

Where can I watch Out Father?

Our Father will be released on Netflix on 11 May.