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Sperm switched: In-vitro nightmare, receptionist used own sperm to father kids

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Sperm switched by a receptionist at a Utah fertility clinic has some families wondering whether the father of their child is a receptionist who was a convicted ex-con. “The University of Utah is offering free genetic testing to families who went to the Midvale, Utah, clinic during the late 1980s and early 1990s in the wake of these jaw-dropping revelations,” reports Fox News on Jan. 10, 2014.

The “sperm switched” news story about a receptionist who fathered at least one child, if not more children, unbeknown to the parents, was first described by an independent genetic genealogist on her blog.

“Paula explained to me that just over twenty years ago; she and her husband were having difficulty conceiving. Their OB/GYN referred them to a fertility clinic associated with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. (They have since learned that the legal name of the clinic was Reproductive Medical Technologies, but at that time only knew it as the University's clinic.) Paula underwent artificial insemination with her husband’s sperm several times unsuccessfully and they were thrilled when she conceived on what they had decided would be their last try in mid-August of 1991.”

After their daughter’s birth in 1992, Paula and her husband saw Ashley grow up into an amazing young lady who excelled in music, dance, and physics. The only question was -- from who had Ashley inherited all those talents?

Since neither Paula nor her husband Jeff seemed to have any of the characteristics observed in their daughter, they used a direct-to-consumer genetic test by 23andMe to pursue their curiosity.

Other than a sense of curiosity, there had been no reason for Paula and Jeff to believe that Jeff’s semen was not used for the insemination. But curiosity turned quickly into a nightmare when 23andMe, and two other consumer genetic testing firms, Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA, confirmed that Ashley did not share any DNA markers with her father Jeff.

So whose sperm had been used?

One of the two genetic testing firms was able to match Ashley’s DNA profile to someone else who was in the company’s database – a distant cousin to Thomas Lippert, the man who had been the receptionist at the fertility clinic that Paula and Jeff had used.

Thomas Lippert had passed away in 1999, but DNA tests from his 99-year-old mother confirmed that the receptionist was Ashley’s real father and that the 99-year-old woman was her grandmother.

Thomas Lippert was an only child. “In 1975, he plead guilty to two counts of conspiring to kidnap after the abduction of a Purdue University student who said Lippert and another man stripped her, forced her into a large black box and threatened her with electric shocks in an effort to brainwash her into loving Lippert. Lippert was sentenced to six years in prison, according to a 2007 article in the alumni magazine of Southwest Minnesota State University, where Lippert was a business professor at the time of the arrest. He apparently served only two of those six years.”

From about 1986 to 1995, Thomas Lippert was a receptionist at the front desk of the Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc. (RMTI) clinic, and according to some reports, the wall behind his desk was filled with pictures of children.

How many of those children were his own?

As of now, nobody knows how many sperm samples Thomas Lippert switched.

Since the RMTI clinic in Midvale, Utah, is closed, the University of Utah is offering free genetic testing to families who might have been subjected to Thomas Lippert’s distribution of his genetic material from 1986 to 1995.

“RMTI is no longer operating, and the university says that there are no records remaining to explain how Lippert ended up fathering Ashley. Individuals wishing to avail themselves of paternity testing can contact the University of Utah Andrology Lab at (801) 587-5852.”

As for Ashley, she is wondering about how many half-siblings are out there. Her family has “set up a website for others who believe they might have been victims of a semen-switching plan by the receptionist.”

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