How Many Children Does Dr. Donald Cline From Netflix's Our Father Have?

Dr. Donald Cline used to be known as one of the finest fertility doctors in Indiana (via The Atlantic). As a profession that was often quite secretive in the 1970s, lots of doctors specializing in infertility treatment didn't keep records of their patients. They encouraged parents never to tell their children that they were conceived by a sperm donor. But the secretive nature of sperm donation and infertility treatment meant that there was ample opportunity for malpractice — as in the case of Dr. Cline. The fertility doctor inseminated lots of women with his own sperm without their knowledge or consent.

Many decades later, Cline's numerous children are finally discovering the horror of just how many kids he actually fathered, reports Netflix. As detailed in the new Netflix documentary "Our Father," when Cline opened his clinic in 1979, there weren't as many rules around surrounding the fertility specialty (via The Atlantic). It was common for doctors to pick the sperm donors they thought would be best for each patient.

High pregnancy rates

Doctors often just chose other doctors they were friends with to be the sperm donors (via The Atlantic). Cline became a popular doctor because he used fresh sperm, instead of frozen, which seemed to result in higher pregnancy rates in his patients. Cline actually confessed to using his own sperm in his patients. When he was inseminating his patients, there was no way to use DNA testing to determine that the children were his. He believed all of the records of the patients he inseminated were long gone, but he apparently stopped the practice of using his own sperm in the late 1980s as infertility science evolved. DNA testing for paternity cases was introduced in 1988, well into Cline's medical career (via Nature Education). 

Cline suddenly had no excuse for the many children that looked like him (via The Atlantic). The doctor first tried to deny that he was the anonymous sperm donor for many of his patients. When he was using his own sperm in his medical practice, Cline most likely thought his crimes would never be uncovered. But with the introduction of DNA technology, it was quite literally impossible for him to deny how many children he had truly created.

What were Cline's motives?

As the Daily Mail reports, one woman was inseminated with Cline's sperm during 15 doctor appointments. She was treated at Cline's office between 1981-1982, but she didn't find out what he had done until the 2010s (via The Atlantic). Upon finding out, she said she felt as if she had been raped 15 times by Cline. 

Daily Mail reports that this complicates relationships for Cline's many, many children. Because Cline's patients were from the same area in Indiana, most of his children also live relatively close to one another. It has certainly made things awkward for the many siblings who live within 25 miles of each other: What if they already interacted with one of their siblings, without knowing they're related to each other? Many of Cline's children have blond hair and blue eyes, and some of them believe that he was intentionally trying to create an Aryan cult of sorts. The Cline kids find it interesting to discuss his motives: Was it a science experiment, a god complex, a fetish? Maybe he wanted to succeed in his field and thought that his radical methods were helping patients.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The first seven siblings

Cline has remained silent about why he committed fertility fraud. However, The Atlantic reports that Cline was charged with neither rape nor battery with bodily waste, and in most of America, there is no specific law against the actions Cline did to his patients.

In the documentary "Our Father," the children of Donald Cline share their stories of how they came to know their half-siblings (via Netflix). One person, Jacoba Ballard, took the initiative to find out how many siblings she really had. Ballard's parents used sperm donation to become pregnant. They didn't hide it from her, and in 2019, Ballard decided to see if she had other siblings from the same sperm donor. And since 2019, the number has climbed higher and higher. She found the first seven half-siblings after she used a DNA kit, but she suspected there was more to the story; not everyone has tested their genetic ancestry.

The Cline half-siblings

According to Netflix, Cline inseminated at least 50 people with his own sperm without their consent, and he has at least 50 children, proven by DNA tests. But as Ballard says, she believes there are more of Cline's kids out there. They just haven't found them all yet.

According to The Atlantic, some of the siblings have found each other without even trying. Some siblings met at a yard sale, while others realized they went to college together. Two other half-siblings had children on the same sports team.

Most men who want to donate sperm can only donate enough for 25 live births per a population of 800,000, as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends. As the Cline children unfortunately found out, living too close to too many of your close relatives can create problems. As another of Cline's children, Jason Hyatt, recalls, he had over 3,000 potential relatives on Ancestry, a DNA-matching website (via Daily Mail).

New fertility laws

Per The Atlantic, the Cline half-siblings now have to face the troubling realities of the situation: What if they accidentally dated their own half-sibling? What if their children then accidentally date their own relatives? If the cut-off for the average sperm donor is 25 live births, what are the consequences in a small town, when that number is more than doubled (via the American Society for Reproductive Medicine)?

As for Dr. Donald Cline, his punishment was a $500 fine, one year's probation, and his medical license was permanently revoked (via Daily Mail). But Cline is now an octogenarian, and he had already retired before his license was taken away.

And in 2019, a new law was finally created to make fertility fraud illegal (via Legiscan). Although this new law won't apply to Cline's actions in the 1970s and 1980s, it will at least give his more than 50 children the legal standing to sue their "father," reports The Atlantic.