Watchdog

Former Idaho Falls doctor admits he used his own sperm to inseminate patients

A retired Idaho Falls gynecologist who was sued last year for allegedly using his own sperm to inseminate a woman admitted to the wrongdoing in sworn testimony.

Dr. Gerald E. Mortimer, the accused physician, previously denied having any memory of using his sperm to inseminate the eggs of patients seeking fertility treatments. But in a deposition last year, Mortimer confessed to inseminating not only one patient in that way, but multiple patients, according to court documents recently discovered by EastIdahoNews.com.

Kelli Rowlette, a Washington resident, filed the lawsuit in March of last year. Rowlette’s lawsuit says she is a child Mortimer fathered with one of his patients, Sally Ashby.

Ashby and Howard Fowler, who were married in 1980 when the incident took place, sought fertility treatments from Mortimer when they were unable to conceive a child. Fowler and a donor both provided sperm for Mortimer to use in the insemination process. However, Mortimer used his own sperm instead, without the couple’s consent, the lawsuit contends.

Gynecologist: ‘I was ashamed’

When attorneys involved in the case initially deposed Mortimer, he denied having any knowledge of using his sperm to inseminate Ashby or any of his other patients. However, in December 2018, Mortimer changed his story, according to court documents.

Rowlette’s attorney, Shea Meehan, questioned Mortimer while he was under oath. Meehan asked if Mortimer previously lied about not being able to remember using his own sperm to inseminate Ashby, and Mortimer admitted to the fabrication.

“I was ashamed,” Mortimer said. “I regret the fact that I was a sperm donor; that I did those things in the past. I guess I feel bad about that. I wish I hadn’t done it.”

In his deposition, Mortimer admits to masturbating at his office and giving a nurse the semen samples that were to be used. Mortimer confessed to using his own sperm at least twice, but less than 10 times to inseminate patients. He said no one else in his office knew about the practice, and he doesn’t recall when he began or stopped using his own semen.

He was employed at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls from 1977 to 2005. Court documents indicate he left the practice because he feared he would be caught.

Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates is listed as a defendant in the Rowlette case. The lawsuit claims the clinic is vicariously liable for Mortimer’s alleged actions and for “failure to exercise due care to control Mortimer so he would not injure patients.” None of the doctors currently at the clinic were working there when Mortimer was practicing.

‘How violated I felt by the doctor’

Mortimer remained Ashby’s physician through and after the delivery of Rowlette. Mortimer admitted to knowing Rowlette was his child at the time of her birth as he was delivering her, according to the deposition.

“How violated I felt by the doctor, knowing what he had done, and that he continued to see her (Rowlette) every appointment that we had when I was pregnant for Nick (Rowlette’s half-brother). And I was in a state of shock for quite a while,” Ashby said in a video deposition recorded in August 2018.

Neither Rowlette nor her parents knew about Mortimer’s role in Rowlette’s conception until she completed a DNA test on Ancestry.com. Through a family search function, the website linked her DNA with Mortimer’s — a man she didn’t know and couldn’t remember ever meeting. At first, Rowlette assumed that the website made a mistake.

“I thought the test was incomplete or wrong,” Rowlette stated in her deposition. “I thought it was impossible.”

In fact, it wasn’t until Rowlette got a copy of her birth certificate and saw the doctor who delivered her was Gerald E. Mortimer — the same man Ancestry.com had identified as her father — that she believed the DNA results were accurate. At that point, with the support of Ashby and Fowler, Rowlette decided to file suit against Mortimer.

Although the case has been active since March 2018, Mortimer and his attorneys, Portia Rauer and Raymond Powers, filed a motion for summary judgment in April 2019. Summary judgment is when a court enters a judgment for one party without a full trial. Both parties presented oral arguments to U.S. District Judge David C. Nye in September, and the court will issue a written decision when a conclusion is reached.

Rowlette and her family are seeking an undisclosed amount of more than $75,000 in damages.

Neither Mortimer’s attorneys nor Rowlette’s have responded to EastIdahoNews.com’s requests for comment. No further formal court proceedings are expected to take place until January 2020 at the earliest, according to court documents.

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