Our Father Trailer: A New Netflix Documentary Sheds Light On A Fertility Doctor's Dark Secret

Content warning: The following contains discussion and descriptions of medical malpractice and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Imagine taking an ancestry DNA test and discovering that the man who raised you wasn't your biological father, as you had always believed. Now imagine finding half-sibling matches all over your city, with new ones popping up each day as more people take more tests out of sheer curiosity. That's exactly what happened to one group of people in Indianapolis who were all paternal descendants of the same man: fertility doctor Donald Cline. 

When doctors betray their patients' trust, the results can be life-changing and catastrophic. Unfortunately, Cline kept a dark secret from his patients: He was using his own sperm for artificial insemination, fathering potentially dozens of children without anyone ever knowing. Now, a new Netflix documentary, "Our Father," aims to reveal his shameful secret and hopefully help prevent this kind of thing from happening again. If this story sounds all too familiar, that's because Cline isn't the only doctor to have done this and wound up being discovered because of DNA testing: The 2020 HBO documentary "Baby God" follows Dr. Quincy Fortier, who did the exact same thing and fathered at least 26 children without his patients' consent or knowledge.

An insidious experiment

In the 1970s and 1980s, artificial insemination was still a new science, with fewer regulations and restrictions than we have today. In fact, a survey in 1987 revealed that 2% of doctors used their own sperm in fertility treatments, and that's just the ones who admitted to it. Many of these doctors boasted higher success rates because they were using fresh instead of frozen sperm, which became the norm after the discovery of HIV transmission without freezing, which makes the deception all the more unsettling.

The children who were sired by Cline have to reconcile their own identities and the truth about their biological father, but the women who came to him for fertility treatments also bear psychological scars from his abuse of power. Authorities recognize that it is some kind of sex crime, but admit in the trailer that there isn't a specific crime tied to his actions. Cline's surprise children have found strength in one another to help make changes to the law to protect other victims of fertility fraud, and their story deserves to be shared. 

Here's the official synopsis for the documentary: 

Jacoba Ballard was an only child, conceived via donor sperm, who always dreamed of having a brother or sister. An at-home DNA test led her to the discovery of not one but seven half-siblings – a number that defied best practices in fertility medicine. As the group set out to learn more about their curious family tree, they soon discovered the sickening truth: Their parents' fertility doctor had been inseminating his patients with his own sperm – without their knowledge or consent. As Ballard and her newfound siblings realized they've barely begun to untangle his dark web of deceit, their pursuit of justice lies at the heart of this profoundly unsettling story about an unimaginable breach of trust.

"Our Father" debuts on Netflix on May 11, 2022.