Longtime Las Vegans will remember the name Dr. Quincy Fortier.
For everyone else: Buckle up. This ride’s about to get wild.
A renowned fertility doctor, Fortier began a general practice in Pioche in 1945, opened Women’s Hospital in Las Vegas in 1961,and was a pillar of the community for the next 35 years.
Unfortunately for his reputation, Fortier lived 45 more years and spent the decade before his death in 2006 dogged by lawsuits alleging sexual abuse and that he impregnated patients with his sperm without their knowledge or consent.
Fortier’s dirty little secrets form the basis of the documentary “Baby God” (9 p.m. Wednesday, HBO).
“In the ’60s, it was, ‘Get married, have kids, everything’s gonna go nice for the rest of your life,’ ” Cathy Holm says in the film, directed by Hannah Olson.
She was 22, married, living in Las Vegas and having trouble conceiving. “Nobody had any solutions,” Holm says, “until I went to Dr. Fortier.”
Holm brought Fortier a sample of her husband’s sperm and, in 1966, she gave birth to a daughter named Wendi.
“Then, over time,” she says in the documentary, “I would look at Wendi, and I’d think, ‘Gee, you know, it’s really funny that she doesn’t really resemble her father’s side of the family at all.’ ”
As Wendi got older, Holm remembers thinking it was odd that her daughter was gifted with so much intelligence — more than either parent should have passed down. It was that intelligence that would lead to Fortier’s further undoing.
It’s hard to overstate the doctor’s good standing in Nevada. Fortier was commander of a medical reserve unit at Nellis Air Force Base. He was instrumental in the growth of Faith Lutheran Academy. In 1966, Fortier was elected to the Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital board of trustees alongside an up-and-comer named Harry Reid. In 1991, he was named Nevada Physician of the Year by the Nevada State Medical Association.
Then, in 1996, Fortier was sued by Mary Craddock, a former patient who said she thought she was being inseminated with her husband’s sperm during visits in 1974 and 1976. DNA tests later confirmed Fortier as the father of those two children, and a confidential settlement was reached during the trial.
With the benefit of modern hindsight, parts of Fortier’s past maybe should have raised some eyebrows. The doctor’s staunchest defenders in “Baby God,” his daughters Sonia and Nanette, discuss how he delivered them and then adopted them when Fortier was 55 and going through a divorce. They mention that Fortier circumcised himself and that he treated them as their gynecologist.
Despite his medical expertise, the doctor surely never imagined the availability of inexpensive home DNA test kits would further sully his reputation. Yet that’s how Holm’s daughter, Wendi Babst, a former detective who’d embraced genealogy as a hobby during her retirement, learned Fortier was her real father. Her investigation, chronicled in the film, unearthed many more half-siblings, born between the 1940s and 1980s, than she ever expected.
Asked how many siblings he thinks he has, Quincy Fortier Jr. says in the documentary, “Hundreds. Plural. Lots and lots. My father was real busy.”
One of those siblings is Mike Otis, who reveals to his 93-year-old mother, Dorothy, that Fortier was his biological father. Unlike his fertility patients, the former Pioche resident says she went to Fortier because she wasn’t feeling well and thought she was being treated for an infection.
“I wasn’t even looking to have a baby. I wasn’t wanting a baby at that time,” Dorothy Otis says. “You know, my life may have been all together different.”
The revelations and allegations, including instances of child sexual abuse, only grow more horrible from there.
Several of Fortier’s secret offspring are interviewed in “Baby God.”
Over the years, they’ve wrestled with the reality of how they came to exist and how much of Fortier, from his genetics to his personality, is present inside them.
“I struggle with whether or not I think he was a good person,” investigator Babst says. “Do you want to say that your father was a monster? And what does that say about you?”