U of U releases report on sperm bank switch investigation

Published 04/24 2014 12:52PM

Updated 04/24 2014 06:02PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - The University of Utah has announced the findings of an investigation into allegations of an intentional sperm switch by a former university employee at a now closed andrology lab. Back in January a family came forward once they discovered their daughter was not biologically connected to her father like they thought. Since then more people have come forward.

The report went public Thursday morning on the university’s website. In the report a team of physicians found that Thomas Lippert, who is now deceased, is not the father to any of the additional five individuals who came forward since January.

"It's clear that either a sample switch occurred accidentally or intentionally. We were not able to determine which of those two possibilities was the fact in this case,” said Dr. Jeffrey Botkin, who led the Universities investigation into the Lippert case.  Dr. Botkin says it's unclear because the key people associated in the sperm swapping are now dead. So, we may never know how a mistake with such a major impact could happen. "Today there has not been any other cases in which Tom Lippert appears to be the father of a baby inappropriately,” said Dr. Botkin.

According to the report, the Branum family, who did not choose Mr. Lippert as a donor back in 1991 for their daughter, Annie, is disappointed with the University and their findings.

"We express our apologies to the family our desire to keep working with them and really to keep on working with any family that wants to be paternity tested, said Chris Nelson, the University of Utah Healthcare Spokesperson.

Offering continued paternity testing is just one of the recommendations of the investigative committee for the university.  However, the committee does not recommend contacting couples and their children who chose Mr. Lippert as a donor. Such contact would provide no significant benefit to the couples or the children that resulted from those services and might create unwarranted concerns as well as disruptions to families. “I think it’s a sort of psychological harm you might anticipate from learning shocking information about the true nature of your conception or the nature of who your father is after several decades,” said Dr. Botkin.

During their investigation, the committee uncovered another lab error that resulted in the birth of a child by an anonymous sperm bank donor who was not the donor selected by the family. “Yes, there is evidence that there was another error that occurred during that time. That was determined not to be associated with Tom Lippert,” said Dr. Botkin. That second family's case is under investigation and the university is also working with them.

The university no longer has an anonymous sperm bank. Rather they use artificial insemination and they say the chance of this situation happening again is unlikely.

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