Judge approves settlement in case of disgraced Ottawa fertility doctor

·3 min read
Norman Barwin was stripped of his licence to practise medicine in 2019. (CBC - image credit)
Norman Barwin was stripped of his licence to practise medicine in 2019. (CBC - image credit)

A judge has approved the class action settlement of a multi-million-dollar payout from disgraced Ottawa fertility doctor Norman Barwin to benefit families who claim he used the wrong sperm — or even his own — to conceive at least 100 children.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod approved the settlement Monday afternoon, which includes a negotiated payout worth $13.375 million.

Since the class action was certified in July, it has grown by 18 individuals to 244 members, including former patients and children conceived through artificial insemination.

In the entire class, 17 have discovered Barwin is their biological father through DNA.

The lead plaintiffs Dan and Davina Dixon had sought Barwin's help to conceive a child together, with their daughter Rebecca born in 1990. Only in recent years did the family learn Barwin — not Dan Dixon — is Rebecca's biological father.

Submitted
Submitted

Rebecca Dixon said they achieved their goals with the class action, one of which was to raise awareness with Barwin's former patients about possible errors.

"I certainly never expected to find as many people as we did in as many different situations as we did," Dixon said in an interview with CBC after the decision.

"Being able to put the legal process to rest — even if it doesn't offer full emotional closure — it is a significant step in getting to a place of acceptance and having the harm that everyone experienced recognized."

The five-year journey led her to meet half-siblings and others seeking closure about their origins, she said.

None of those who were part of the original group seeking certification of a class opted out before the settlement was approved, according to Peter Cronyn, the lawyer representing the families.

"From a legal perspective, there are no precedents for the kind of harm done here. There's no precedent for what these people have gone through," Cronyn said.

He said people have been devastated to learn their genetic background isn't what they'd believed, and many still don't know who their actual father was.

Maximum payout of $50K

Members of the class action are entitled to up to $50,000 depending on the "category of harm" of the individual.

Cronyn said they have until February to file the required documents and, if necessary, go through the genetic testing to verify they are part of the class.

The highest payout is for families who have DNA proof a child or children conceived "with Dr. Barwin's assistance, or with semen previously entrusted to Dr. Barwin, are not the biological child of the man in the couple."

The first child of those patients is entitled to $40,000, and each additional child in the same family is "entitled up to a further $10,000 each, in total."

CBC
CBC

The settlement also includes damages for patients who entrusted their sperm to Barwin for storage and safekeeping, which was then used for the conception of a child with an unrelated patient.

The class-action agreement says the negotiated settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing by Barwin, who "has denied and continues to deny all of the plaintiffs' claims in this action."

In 2019, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stripped Barwin of his medical licence, finding he had committed professional misconduct by using his own sperm to inseminate several patients and using the wrong sperm with many others. Barwin pleaded no contest at the time and was ordered to pay a fine of $10,730.

CBC News has not received a response from Barwin's lawyer.

CBC
CBC
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