There are plenty of types of fraud you might be familiar with, but fertility fraud probably isn’t one of them. Not unless you’re connected somehow to the fertility industry, anyway.
These fraudulent acts were borne out of the advancement of fertility treatment decades ago, and on June 30th, the Colorado legislature passed a bill officially making fertility fraud a crime.
So what is it exactly, and how do these charges stand out from other fraudulent activities?
Fertility Fraud: The Discovery of False Fatherhood
The rise of artificial insemination in the 1970s and 1980s was a dream come true for couples having trouble conceiving. People with fertility issues could now potentially have biological children, something that had previously been impossible.
However, many fields have growing pains in their infancy, and artificial insemination was no different. One of the most prominent issues in the beginning for the fertility industry? Very few checks and balances in place.
Doctors Found Using Others’ Sperm
Often the doctor was the only person outside of the couple who was involved at all. As a result, some doctors were able to take advantage of their patients. They helped women conceive, yes – but not with their husbands’ sperm.
Instead, these doctors committed what is now known as fertility fraud: they inseminated women with their own sperm. One Grand Rapids doctor stands accused of fathering as many as 16 people fraudulently between 1976 and 1984. Other doctors have fathered as many as 100 fraudulent children through the same type of deception.
These doctors committed a particularly egregious violation of their patients’ trust by using their own sperm. However, the new law specifies that using any person’s sperm other than the person the patient specified is a crime.
How Fertility Fraud Charges Stand Apart
Fertility fraud is a serious charge, but so are other forms of fraud. Certain parts of the fertility fraud stand out as unique, though.
When It’s the Evidence Filing Charges
First of all, few forms of fraud can lead to the creation of an entirely new life. As a result, fertility fraud is unique in that the proof of fraud itself — the child — can actually file a lawsuit.
Children resulting from fertility fraud practices can bring an action against the healthcare provider who performed the procedure. Their very existence is an incontrovertible sign that wrongdoing occurred.
Automatic Felony Punitive Measures, Plus Compensatory Damages
Furthermore, fertility fraud carries heavier penalties than many other forms of fraud. It is automatically a Class 6 felony, which is more serious than the majority of fraud charges. There is a mandatory penalty of $50,000 as compensatory damages in civil actions.
Additionally, as a Class 6 felony, a single criminal charge can lead to 18 months in prison along with punitive damages. If a healthcare practitioner has committed multiple acts of fertility fraud, however, the time can quickly multiply.
Often it takes a couple multiple rounds of fertility treatment, so you can see how these penalties might grow exponentially — especially if there is more than one couple involved.
Fertility Fraud Isn’t Worth Your Colorado Medical License
Fertility fraud may have just been declared a crime, but it has been occurring for years. As the fertility industry continues to mature, laws like this continue to tighten the reigns on fertility practices.
We understand how much having a child can mean to your patients, but at what cost? Our advice is, don’t risk it. Otherwise, you could be quickly searching for the right Colorado criminal defense team.
Remember, healthcare practitioners convicted of fertility fraud are likely to lose their livelihood, as well. Fertility fraud as defined by the new House Bill 1014 is explicitly considered “unprofessional conduct.”
That means that it is grounds for the convicted to lose their medical license and right to practice in Colorado. Outside of healthcare fraud, few types of fraud can lead so directly to the end of a career.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.