One family’s sperm-swapping nightmare at a Utah fertility clinic could be just the tip of the genetic iceberg. The University of Utah launched an investigation in April into the family’s claim and is offering genetic testing to other families who fear their samples may have been tampered with.
The University says it hasn’t found evidence of other cases of mixed-up parenthood at the now-closed fertility center, a Midvale, Utah clinic called Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc. that was owned by a faculty member at the university. But relevant records from the clinic no longer exist.
The investigation came to our attention this week, when blogger CeCe Moore shared the story of an anonymous couple (“Paula” and “Jeff”) whose genetic testing and subsequent research revealed that their daughter’s biological father was actually a man named Tom Lippert, an employee at the fertility clinic they used.
Fertility clinic mix-ups, though rare, are not unprecedented — but this might not have been just a simple accident. The family suspects that back in 1991, Lippert may have intentionally swapped his sperm in place of Jeff’s. As Moore tells it, Lippert was a troubled character who spent time in prison for a strange kidnapping, kept photos at his desk of all the children he had helped conceive, and died in 1999 after years of alcoholism.
Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc. (RMTI) was a private clinic that the university contracted with for specimen preparation and semen analysis. Though the clinic was never officially affiliated with the school and is now closed, the University is investigating what it calls “a possible mislabeling or tampering of a semen sample.”
Lippert worked at the clinic from 1986-1995, according to Moore. He was also a part-time worker at the University of Utah from 1988-1994. The University is offering free genetic testing to people who used the clinic’s services to conceive between 1988 and 1994, and concerned former RMTI patients can contact the University of Utah Andrology Lab (801-587-5852).
The blogger who originally brought the story to our attention, CeCe Moore of Your Genetic Genealogist, also collaborated with Paula and Jeff to set up a website where potential victims
can connect and discuss the story.
The University of Utah’s full statement, which we received via email, is below.
Since April 2013, the University of Utah has been investigating credible information regarding the possible mislabeling or tampering of a semen sample at RMTI (Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc.), a private andrology lab owned by a University faculty member (now deceased). The facility was a private laboratory located in Midvale, Utah. While not owned or operated by the University, the University contracted with RMTI for specimen preparation and semen analysis. Additionally, RMTI prepared semen samples for private physician offices throughout the community, not University physicians.
Through genetic testing, a woman who received artificial insemination (AI) in 1991 discovered the biological father of her child was not her husband, as she had assumed. She traced the genetics of her child to a man who was a former employee of the now-defunct RMTI, which may have prepared the AI sample. The man in question was also a part-time employee of the University from 1988-94.
There are no remaining records from RMTI to prove the claim and the man in question has been deceased since 1999. Consequently, it is unknown how this incident might have happened. In addition, there is no evidence to indicate this situation extends beyond the case in question.
We understand this information has been upsetting for the family and other clients of RMTI. We want to help alleviate this distress by providing professional genetic testing for RMTI clients who were treated between 1988 through 1994.
Concerned individuals should contact the University of Utah Andrology Lab at 801-587-5852.
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