Woman says doctor used his genetic material for insemination

A Colorado woman is suing a Vermont doctor, accusing him of using his own genetic material when he artificially inseminated her in 1978 at what was then the Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin.

In a lawsuit filed June 14 in federal court in Burlington, Shirley Brown, now of Boulder County, Colorado, alleges that Dr. John Coates III had agreed to inseminate her using donated genetic material.

Coates’ attorney Peter Joslin, of Montpelier, did not immediately return a voice-mail message left at his office Friday or an email from The Associated Press.

A separate lawsuit filed against Coates by a Florida couple in 2018 that makes similar allegations remains pending in federal court in Vermont.

The new lawsuit, which was first reported by the news website VtDigger.org, says Brown didn’t learn that Coates, a now retired OB-GYN at what was then the Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin, was the genetic father of her now-adult daughter until last fall when the daughter did genetic testing to learn more about her biological father.

“Plaintiff would not have consented to the Procedure had Defendant Dr. Coates informed her that he was choosing to breach the terms of the Representation and instead was choosing to insert his own genetic material into Plaintiff Shirley Brown, to inseminate Plaintiff Shirley Brown with his own genetic material and was choosing to father a child through Plaintiff Shirley Brown,” the suit says.

The lawsuit says Brown and her husband, who was incapable of fathering children, met with Coates who agreed to artificially inseminate the woman with genetic material from an unnamed medical student who resembled the husband and had other characteristics that Brown sought.

Brown learned she was pregnant in 1978 and she gave birth to a daughter at the Berlin hospital in February 1979 as a result of what the lawsuit calls Coates’ “fraudulent insemination.”

The seven-count lawsuit alleges that Coates’ actions constituted medical negligence, he failed to obtain informed consent, he committed fraud and battery, he intentionally inflicted emotional distress and he breached their original contract.

The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.