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Late doctor accused of inseminating patient with his own sperm in lawsuit

Updated March 29, 2024 - 7:07 pm

Twin siblings have filed a lawsuit against the estate of a prominent Henderson OB-GYN, alleging that he impregnated their mother with his own sperm in the 1980s without her knowledge.

Dr. Joseph Plautz, who established his Deseret Woman’s Care practice at St. Rose de Lima Hospital, was an OB-GYN in Clark County for more than 30 years, until his death in 2015, according to his online obituary.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in District Court alleges that Allison Vece and Kevin Phelps discovered through multiple at-home DNA tests that they were half-siblings with multiple of Plautz’s biological children.

In 1984, their mother, Gayle Fedele, asked for help conceiving through artificial insemination, the complaint states. Plautz told her he could obtain donor sperm from a sperm bank in Wyoming.

“Ms. Fedele was not required to sign any forms or documents regarding obtaining the semen from the sperm bank and Dr. Plautz affirmed he would take all actions required to secure the donor sperm from the Rocky Mountain Sperm Bank in Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Christian Morris.

Morris did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Fedele, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, went through the artificial insemination twice, the lawsuit stated. During the procedure, Plautz sang to Fedele to make her “smile, relax and laugh,” according to the lawsuit.

“She trusted him completely with her body, heart, and mind,” the lawsuit said.

Nine months later, Plautz helped Fedele deliver her twin children. Fedele continued seeing Plautz for gynecological examinations, and when Vece was 17, she also started being treated by Plautz.

Fedele later asked Plautz for information about the sperm donor because of health issues that Vece was experiencing. Plautz told her that all of the medical records from the sperm bank were destroyed in a fire, the lawsuit said.

The administrator of Plautz’s estate could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

In May 2022, Vece watched the Netflix documentary “Our Father” about a doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate dozens of unsuspecting patients. After she saw the film, Vece asked to see the results of a DNA test her brother had taken the year before, and she “immediately recognized that relatives with the last name Plautz were likely related to Dr. Plautz,” according to the lawsuit.

Vece took two DNA tests from different companies to confirm the results, the lawsuit said. When she contacted the sperm bank in Wyoming, the company told her that there was no fire at the facility that destroyed medical records, according to the lawsuit.

The family is suing Plautz’s estate for claims including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, battery and fertility fraud.

According to the lawsuit, Nevada law states that a health care provider who knowingly implants their own reproductive material into a patient without the patient’s consent is guilty of fertility fraud, and the resulting child is able to sue for damages.

“Ms. Vece and Mr. Phelps’ claims for fertility fraud are properly pled within the statute of limitation based on when Ms. Vece and Mr. Phelps learned of genetic risk factors associated with Dr. Plautz’s DNA, which place them at an increased risk of genetic diseases and conditions,” according to the lawsuit.

Fedele and her children also petitioned to reopen Plautz’s estate in probate court, records show.

Attorney Christen Whitney, who represented Plautz’s wife in the 2016 probate case, said Wednesday that he was not familiar with the filings to reopen the estate. In a brief phone call, Whitney said he was also not familiar with the lawsuit, but that he found the allegations “hard to believe.”

In the early 2000s, another prominent Las Vegas OB-GYN faced lawsuits alleging he fraudulently used his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients. Dr. Quincy Fortier, who died in 2006, was the subject of the 2020 HBO documentary “Baby God.” Fortier’s son claimed in the documentary that his father could have had “hundreds” of children.

Two former patients sued Fortier, claiming that they were both told that the doctor used their husband’s sperm to inseminate them. The lawsuits reached confidential settlements in the early 2000s after DNA tests revealed Fortier was the biological father of the woman’s children.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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