Landmark fertility fraud case settled in Vermont for US$5.25 million

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In a landmark fertility fraud case, a jury awarded a Vermont woman $5.25 million in damages because her family doctor used his own sperm to impregnate her 40 years ago.

Cheryl and Peter Rousseau both had children from previous marriages and wanted a child together. However, Peter had undergone a vasectomy. So, in 1977, the couple consulted Dr. John Boyd Coates III who assured them that he could supply a medical student’s sperm. Instead, as a genetic test proved 40 years later, he used his own.

In late March, a jury found that Dr. Coates failed to obtain informed consent, was liable for fraud, committed assault and battery, and breached his contract with Cheryl Rousseau.

Another woman is also suing Dr. Coates for a similar act of fertility fraud.

According to Ellen Trachman of Above the Law, the verdict is “a very big deal”. She quotes fertility fraud expert Jody L. Madeira:

“The jury verdict in Rousseau v. Coates is the first-ever fraud verdict. Its magnitude demonstrates the public outrage these cases can generate and demonstrates that ordinary citizens – those who serve on a jury – recognize the heinous violation and trauma that this conduct generates.

The doctor’s lawyer said: “Dr Coates retired from medical practice in 2008. He is now 80 years old. He definitely renounces his medical license. The events in question occurred more than forty years ago. Dr. Coates regrets the circumstances giving rise to the charges.

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