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University medical group claims responsibility for 'sperm switch'

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Renegade sperm donor was an employee of University of Utah Healthcare.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – The University of Utah admits a renegade sperm donor was a former employee.
That man, Tom Lippert who is now deceased and was a convicted felon is accused of switching sperm and fathering a child.
The swap helped a former Utah family give birth to Annie Branum in early 1990.
Her family learned through a DNA test which showed Lippert, not Annie's real father to be her biological parent.

“This is a shocking story to all of us,” says Sean Mulvihill, chief executive officer of the University of Utah Medical Group.

Lippert worked at a Millcreek reproductive clinic called Reproductive Medical Technologies (RMI) from 1988 to 1993. Mulvihill says Lippert also was an employee of the University of Utah Community Laboratory.

“Although the two laboratories were separate entities, we have no learned that in addition to being co-located, the labs shared administrative oversight and staff,” says Mulvihill. “Both labs employed Mr. Lippert.”

Mulvihill says they are still trying to figure how the sperm switch occurred and are reviewing what happened twenty plus years ago.
He says the University of Utah Healthcare is accepting responsibility. Lippert was a convicted felon before he was employed at the clinic in 1988. The U's Medical Group CEO says his work record was inconsistent.

“Some of his records suggest that his performance was good and he was deserving of a raise,” says Mulvihill. “Others suggested more oversight was needed of both him and the two laboratories.”

He did not know the circumstances that led to Lippert’s departure from the clinic.
Mulvihill estimates Lippert may have interacted with 1,000 families but to date, 15 have called their hotline.

“I think puzzlement is one of the common things (from these families),” he says. “What we're hoping with this event today to reach out to those individuals who may be worried who may have had care at that time."

For families with questions the University has set up at hotline at (801)-587-5852.

In its prepared statement, Mulvihill also discussed their plan to address the issue.

"First, and most importantly, because our patients are our primary focus, we are working with those who have raised questions and concerns. We will continue our hotline number for patients who have questions about their care: 801-587-5852. In addition, we will be adding a link directly on our website with information and updates. Patients can also email us at andrology@hsc.utah.edu. We will continue to offer paternity testing for patients who were in RMTI or the University of Utah’s care during the relevant time period.
Second, the University has worked hard to gather the available documents from this time period, and we have established a panel of distinguished physicians to review all aspects of this case. The physician leaders have no connection to this case, RMTI, or the community laboratory. They will review medical records, protocols, and the ethical issues presented. The panel will consist of Dr. John F. Bohnsack, Vice-Chair of Pediatrics, and Executive Medical Officer, University of Utah Medical Group; Dr. Thomas L. Miller, Chief Medical Officer, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics; and Dr. Jeffrey R. Botkin, Chief, Medical Ethics, University of Utah School of Medicine.
Third, to ensure the integrity of the process, we have retained an independent third-party medical ethicist, Professor R. Alta Charo from the University of Wisconsin. Professor Charo will review the methodology used by the committee and its findings and recommendations. Once this process is complete, we will share the results with our patients and the public.

The events in question occurred more than 20 years ago and records from that time are incomplete. That challenge notwithstanding, we are committed to reaching a fuller understanding of what happened then and to providing our patients with relevant information in an expeditious and compassionate manner."
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