When a woman took an AncestryDNA test, it came back with unexpected results. It listed a man she had never heard of as a match for a potential parent-child relationship. At first, she assumed that the test was inaccurate. But when she asked her mother about the results, her mother immediately recognized the man’s name. It was her fertility doctor from decades earlier.
That woman is now filing a lawsuit in Idaho against the doctor.
In the 1980s, Kelli Rowlette’s parents were struggling to conceive and went to a specialist. The fertility doctor proposed that they use sperm from a donor selected by the couple, in addition to that of Rowlette’s father, to artificially inseminate her mother.
But the doctor swapped his own sperm out for that of the anonymous donor, despite not matching the description of the donor that they had selected. Rowlette’s parents had no idea that this had happened until their daughter’s AncestryDNA results came back. Kelli Rowlette is now 36 years old.
The doctor then continued to see the Rowlette's parents for a number of years. The lawsuit states that he “cried when Ms. Ashby [Rowlette’s mother] informed him that they were moving.”
When the test results came back, Rowlette told her mother that she was disappointed with “the unreliability of the service,” not realizing that the result had revealed her actual biological father.
After Rowlette’s mother recognized the name of the doctor on the test, her parents debated whether or not to tell her the news. Before they could decide, however, Rowlette came across a copy of her birth certificate and noticed that it was signed by the same person who came back as a match.
Now Rowlette is suing her parent’s former doctor, Gerald E. Mortimer, in a U.S.. District Court in Idaho for fraud and medical negligence.
According to a statement from Ancestry.com, the doctor could have hidden his actions by changing his privacy settings. “With Ancestry, customers maintain ownership and control over their DNA data. Anyone who takes a test can change their DNA matching settings at any time, meaning that if they opt out, their profile and relationship will not be visible to other customers,” the organization said.