A sperm bank in Utah is being blamed for a mix-up that occurred two decades ago, it was revealed on Jan. 23. The mix-up has prompted the University of Utah to form a panel of doctors and medical ethicists to review the incident.
Taking full responsibility for the switch that occurred in 1991, University of Utah Medical Group CEO Sean Mulvihill on Wednesday promised as complete an inquiry as possible.
“This is a shocking story for all of us,” Mulvihill said. “We want to make sure that people are reassured that the policies and practices today make it inconceivable that the same sort of thing can happen today.”
The university has confirmed that Thomas Lippert, an employee of the private clinic that closed in 1998, is the biological father of the woman who now lives in San Antonio with her family. They don’t know why or how his sperm samples got switched with the father’s, and set up a hotline and website for anyone else who visited the clinic between 1988 and 1993, when Lippert worked there.
About 15 people have called a hotline the university set up earlier this month, and a couple of families are considering paternity tests. So far, there are no other known cases of Lippert fathering children without the family’s knowledge.
But complicating matters is the fact that most of the records from the lab are gone and Lippert and the former clinic director have died. As many as 1,000 people may have gone to the clinic while Lippert worked there, said Mulvihill, while adding that school officials can’t contact them all because of the missing records.
The woman, Annie Branum, is now 21, and says the discovery has forced her to rethink who she is. Her family stumbled upon the discovery while using widely available DNA tests to trace their family roots online. The results showed Annie Branum’s DNA didn’t match her father’s. The website led them to a second cousin who had also used the DNA testing.
They tracked her down, and she turned out to be Lippert’s cousin. She told the Branums that Lippert was a sperm donor who lived in Salt Lake City.
A DNA test of Lippert’s 99-year-old mother confirmed the sperm bank mix-up and revealed that she was the daughter’s biological grandmother.