A Dutch hospital has confirmed that a gynaecologist used his own sperm in fertility treatment to father at least 21 children and perhaps "dozens more" – in the third case of its kind in the Netherlands since the 1970s.
The latest scandal came to light when an organisation that helps people to trace their biological parents found DNA matches between children whose mothers had all received fertility treatment at the Elisabeth Hospital in Liederdorp, near Leiden, since absorbed into the Alrijne Hospital.
Further investigation revealed last summer that the DNA involved also matched the DNA of one of the treating gynaecologist’s own children.
The doctor has been named as Jos Beek, who died in 2019 after working at the hospital for 25 years from 1973 to 1998. The 21 children whose identity has been established are known to have been conceived between 1973 and 1986.
"We were very shocked when we saw the evidence of what had happened," said Peter Jue, a spokesman for the hospital's board of management. "We were shocked for the children directly affected and, of course, shocked for their parents too.
“The way this doctor behaved was totally unacceptable. The women involved believed they were being fertilised using sperm from anonymous donors.
“We don’t exclude the possibility that dozens more children fathered by Jos Beek may yet be discovered – and so we are asking everyone who has been treated by this gynaecologist to come forward and talk to us.”
In fact, the hospital has been forced to go public and issue an appeal for the mothers treated by Dr Beek to contact a special helpline because its own internal records have since been destroyed.
It also revealed that it launched an independent investigation last January by retired gynaecologist Didi Braat, emeritus professor of reproductive medicine at Radboud University Medical Centre. She is expected to report by summer.
Since 2004, children in the Netherlands have had the right to know the identities of their biological parents once they reach the age of 16.
Dutch law also limits the number of children who may be fathered by any single sperm donor to 21.
“In the early 1970s, fertility treatment was still in its infancy,” said Mr Jue. “The field was still developing. There was very little regulation in the sector compared to today. Now we have national protocols and regular clinical audits.”
Beek is the third Dutch fertility doctor known to have used his own sperm in fertility treatment.
In 2019, it emerged that Jan Karbaat, from Rotterdam, had fathered at least 40 children during the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
In October 2020, it emerged that Dr Jan Wildschut had used his own sperm to father 17 children.