A sperm bank mix-up at the University of Utah nearly two decades ago has had lasting implications for at least one girl and at most hundreds of other families. Thomas Lippert, a convicted felon, switched his sperm with another donor's back in the 1990s and fathered a girl, and now University of Utah Healthcare is reopening an investigation into what exactly happened.
The sperm bank mix-up came while Lippert and another lab worker were employed by the University Community Lab and Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc. simultaneously, with both labs sharing space, administrators and employees. Lippert and the other unnamed person fathered 21-year-old Annie Branum of San Antonio, Texas.
Branum discovered she wasn't genetically related to her parents when she happened to take a simple DNA test to trace her family roots, according to the Associated Press. Branum and her family asked the University of Utah what happened in 2013, but the school said the clinic was private and run by RMTI and closed their investigation.
Now, however, they admitted that the school was ultimately responsible for finding the truth- more than 1,000 people came into the clinic from 1988 to 1993 while Lippert worked there, but it's unknown how many he children he has fathered.
"We take responsibility for this situation and the uncertainty it has caused," Sean Mulvihill, a university official, told AP.
The university has created a panel to investigate that includes three University of Utah doctors and a medical ethicist from the University of Wisconsin. They plan to release their findings in three month, but getting the truth won't be easy: Lippert and the director of the clinic have died, the clinic has since closed and many of the records are gone.
The University of Utah has set up a hotline for families to call who want more information or DNA testing, though only 15 have called as of Wednesday.
"Some patients really have loving, well-functioning family and they don't want to know too much more about the biological nature of the family," Mulvihill explained. "Others want to know."
Lippert accepted a plea bargain in 1975 for kidnapping a female Purdue University student and subjecting her to a "love experiment"-- he used electroshock behavioral modification techniques on her against her will.