Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Informed Consent, IVF, Sanctity of Life

Perils of Assisted Reproduction – The Possibility that a Doctor Fathered ‘Thousands” of Children

A recent article by Michael Cook in BioEdge entitled, “Michigan Doctor May Have Fathered ‘Thousands’ of Children” details the case of Dr. Steven Peven, a Detroit area obstetrician and gynecologist who may have fathered a significant number of the 9,000 babies he delivered during his 40-year career. Dr. Peven is now 105 years old, and DNA testing has been used to reunite the doctor with some of his genetic offspring- children whose parents had come to him for help conceiving. Dr. Peven reportedly regularly provided the donor sperm used in assisted reproductive techniques in his office medical practice.

The couples involved appear to be unaware at the time of conception and birth that the sperm donor who fathered their progeny was Dr. Peven himself. Among the myriad of bioethical issues that this case highlights is the role of informed consent- or in this case the utter lack of informed consent. Likewise, this case serves to elucidate the problems that arise within a small community in cases like this one. Dr. Peven is a member of the Detroit Jewish community- as are many of his patients. Dr. Peven’s choice to utilize his own sperm for assisted reproductive services increases the chance that – particularly within the local Jewish community- siblings might unwittingly meet, fall in-love, marry, and reproduce. A number of genetic disorders, including Gaucer Disease, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis, have a statistically higher degree of being passed on within the community as a direct result of Dr. Peven’s behavior.

Dr. Peven’s case unfortunately is not an isolated event: many similar cases have been brought to light in recent years. Each of these cases reminds us of the inherent dignity and worth of the individual human person from the moment of conception. Children have the right to know who they are and where they came from, yet each of these situations reveals the stark realities that manifest when human reproduction and childbearing are treated as mere commodities.

More information regarding this case can be found at: “BioEdge” 31 Jan 2021, by Michael Cook. BioEdge: Michigan doctor may have fathered ‘thousands’ of children

Dr. Mary Anne Urlakis

9 February 2021