The Case of Kelli Rowlette
When Kelli Rowlette submitted her DNA test kit for Ancestry.com, there was no reason to suspect her parentage. Probably she was like many of us, and just wanted to see if she was related to someone famous. When the test revealed a separate father from her own, she wrote it off as a failure of technology never suspecting it could actually be evidence of medical malpractice.
Her mother, however, recognized the name. It was the name of a fertility doctor. Their fertility doctor. The one who helped impregnate her with the future Mrs. Kelli Rowlette.
What is being alleged in the subsequent malpractice lawsuit is that said fertility doctor, Dr. Gerald Mortimer, after informing Kelli Rowlette’s parents that he would mix the semen of an “anonymous donor” with the father’s donor in order to increase the likelihood of insemination, instead mixed it with his own. Dr. Mortimer proceeded to act as the family OB/GYN, which gave him the opportunity to deliver and then regularly check-in with his biological daughter.
The malpractice lawsuit even alleges that Dr. Mortimer cried when he found out the family was moving.
Is it Medical Malpractice?
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Mortimer has denied any wrongdoing, even going so far to say that the statute of limitations has been reached in this case. In Idaho, where the incident occurred, you are required to file a malpractice claim within 2 years. Dr. Mortimer’s legal team alleges that the clock on that claim should have started when Kelli Rowlette reached adulthood, since it would have been clear by then that Rowlette wasn’t their child.
“I guess this is like ‘The Seed is Strong’ argument from Westeros in Game of Thrones, where everyone inherits the King’s hair color,” writes Ellen Trachman in the tongue-in-cheek legal blog Above the Law. One hopes that Dr. Mortimer’s hair color isn’t overly prominent in any other small Idaho hamlets.
This is another case where malpractice law and modern technology have overlapped to create a gray area. Provisions for unseemly mail-order DNA testing revelations have unfortunately not made it to any modern tort reform initiatives. But one thing is for sure: with new medical technologies will come new and surprising way for people to go afoul of ethical medical practices.