April 9, 2018 -- Kelli Rowlette sent a DNA sample to Ancestry.com last year and was surprised by one of the results: a father-daughter match with a man whose name she did not know.
According to a lawsuit made public this week, the man’s name is Gerald Mortimer, MD, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist. Rowlette, 36, would come to find out that he was the fertility doctor for her parents, Howard Fowler and Sally Ashby, now divorced, the lawsuit states.
After discovering the connection, the three filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pocatello, ID, on March 30. It names Mortimer and his wife, Linda Gay McKinnon Mortimer, as well as Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls, alleging medical malpractice, fraud, and breach of contract. Rowlette, Ashby, and Fowler all live in Eastern Washington. Mortimer and his wife live in Bonneville County, ID, according to the lawsuit.
The suit says Rowlette hadn't known that her parents had had trouble conceiving before her birth. In 1980, the couple lived in Idaho Falls and sought Mortimer's help. He recommended that they use both Fowler's sperm and sperm from an anonymous donor for a better chance of conception. He said they could select a donor with traits they desired. The sperm mix would be 85% Fowler's and 15% from an anonymous donor, the lawsuit says.
The couple agreed, paid the fees, and gave specifications for the donor -- a college student who resembled Fowler and was more than 6 feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes. Although the doctor said he had found a donor that matched the description, he used his own sperm to impregnate Ashby in late summer 1980, the suit says
In May 1981, Mortimer delivered his own biological child, never telling the couple about the true source of the sperm, the lawsuit says. Ashby found out only when Rowlette shared the Ancestry.com results. She in turn told her ex-husband.
Mortimer remained their doctor for years, until they decided to move to Washington. He cried when Ashby let him know they were moving, according to the lawsuit.
Mortimer did not return a request for or comment. A spokesperson at the Idaho Falls clinic where Mortimer worked read a statement from Michael Wheiler, a lawyer representing the clinic: "None of the healthcare providers currently at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls were part of the practice in 1979-1980, and they diligently strive to provide care to their patients in compliance with the standards of healthcare practice."
The lawsuit says Rowlette and her parents are requesting more than $75,000 plus costs, attorney fees, and interest.
"Since discovering Dr. Mortimer's actions, Ms. Ashby, Mr. Fowler and Mrs. Rowlette have been suffering immeasurably," it says.