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N4T Investigators: Fertility Fraud?

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TUCSON (KVOA) -The News 4 Tucson Investigators brought you the shocking story two weeks ago about a former Tucson doctor accused by some of his patients of doing the unthinkable.

They went to Doctor James Blute III for infertility treatments.

They said they trusted him, and he betrayed that trust by using his own sperm instead of anonymous donor sperm that they had paid for.

Now, they said they are finding out through DNA tests that their own doctor is the father of their children.

Even worse yet, what he's accused of is not a crime in the state of Arizona.

Arizona is not the only state that doesn't have a law on the books making fertility fraud a crime.

Only five states are up to speed legally on this type of deception.

"This is gross, this is the most basic violation of trust and decency, " said Dev Sethi.

He represents Debra Guilmette and her daughter, Kristen Finlayson.

He filed a civil lawsuit accusing Blute of medical malpractice, fraud and sexual battery.

There is no law in Arizona that can charge him criminally.

"Really the law has not caught up with the deceit we're finding," Sethi said.

Dr. James Blute III was interviewed on TV by a fellow doctor in 1987. The Pima County Medical Society sponsored the half-hour show.

It was called Prescription For Health .

The topic was medical malpractice and the need to protect patients.

"Science is not perfect, still a lot of unknown out there, Blute said. "A big void in the universe we don't understand. We're trying day by day to get better at it."

Newly-relected State Senator Victoria Steele saw our first story on this case.

We asked her why Arizona didn't have a law to protect people like Debra and her daughter Kristen.

"Who would have thought we needed a law like this." was her response.

However, after she watched the News 4 Tucson's Investigators report, she said, "We're developing language for a bill right now. So, it is my intention to introduce legislation on this in the 2021 session."

Steele was still in disbelief.

"Why any doctor would do something so cruel to a family this is horrific," she said.

Debra and Kristen are just one of about 30 to 40 cases nationwide involving hundreds of victims, according to Jodi Madeira, a law professor from the Mauer School of Law at Indiana University. She's done extensive research on fertility fraud.

"None of them thought they would ever get caught," she said.

That was in the 70's and 80's, when no one was even thinking about going to the drug store and buying an over-the-counter DNA kit with quick results.
Fast forward to now, this has become a reality and doctors are getting caught.

It's causing major issues for the former patients and "the children themselves feel like they were conceived from rape and it's a very very traumatic discovery," said Madeira.

Many ask what was the motive?

Madeira responded, "one doctor in an unreported case said, I had kids in college and I needed the money. Others think they have something great to pass along. So, others may have darker motives which is a sexual attraction to a patient."

However, at the end of the day, "they all take it upon themselves to something which is unethical and criminal as well."

Currently, there are only five states that consider fertility fraud a crime.

California was the first in 1995 followed by Indiana, Texas, Florida, and just five months ago Colorado.

The laws vary, according to Madeira.

"In Indiana, the law allows a longer period to sue," she said. "It provides liquidated damages in a civil case of $10,000 if you don't want to go through the whole process of a lawsuit."

However in Texas, "physicians can't take advantage of their patients and that is a sexual assault. And that carries a registration requirement like a sex offender case."

Steele said if the bill becomes Arizona law it won't be retroactive, but it will stop this type of deception going forward.

Former patients like Debra and her daughter Kristen will have some closure knowing that no more families will have to go through what they have.

Their attorney, Dev Sethi told the News 4 Tucson Investigators he has received multiple calls from children who have learned that their mothers received fertility treatments from Dr. Blute and who are related to Blute.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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