“Seeds of Deceit: The Sperm Donor Doctor” is a chilling and disturbing exploration of a disturbing and alarming new trend in true crime.
Last year, I examined “Our Father,” a 90-minute film by Lucie Jourdan that focused on a fertility specialist in Indiana. The doctor had been impregnating unsuspecting patients with his own sperm for 30 years, instead of using that of their husbands or chosen donors. My main takeaway was that if there was one doctor doing this, there were likely others and possibly even more. History has shown that oppressive groups will always find ways to use technology against their favored targets.
Behold, it has occurred. The documentary “Seeds of Deceit” tells the story of Dr. Jan Karbaat, a Dutch leader in artificial insemination, who secretly fathered numerous children without their patients’ consent. The film premiered at Sundance the year prior to Jourdan’s Netflix program being released. It seems that a new subgenre of true crime is emerging and I suggest tempering one’s expectations for humanity to avoid despair.
To murky, awful business then. The first of Seeds of Deceit’s three episodes concentrates on the mothers of what turn out to be (some of) their doctor’s children. A few have only good things to say about the man who, by whatever means, had given them the babies they longed for at a time when medical, cultural and religious norms were set against “unnatural” methods of conceiving. The Catholic church had pronounced donor insemination tantamount to adultery. The papers were full of fearful stories about single women choosing to have and raise children alone. Karbaat seemed a beacon of hope in darkness, even if he was so rough that many women were left with vaginal bleeding after their appointments.
Some people quickly perceived him as unsettling and had to disregard his remarks about their looks, reproductive organs, or how he would be a superior partner compared to their husbands. Several of them were sexually violated by Karbaat during their insemination procedures. “I desperately wanted children… I was determined to go through with it,” one victim shared. Another recounted how he ejaculated onto her and then used a syringe to insert the sperm inside her. She was unique in that she knew for certain the sperm belonged to him.
Multiple women became wary. A staff member attempted to report the clinic after witnessing Karbaat “impregnating” a patient with water. “I need to earn some money,” Karbaat informed him. However, Karbaat convinced the health inspectorate that everything was in order and continued his misconduct without consequences.
Like Our Father, you desire a more thorough examination to accompany the heart-wrenching testimonies. Perhaps, looking into one of his former nurse’s remarks about doctors being placed on pedestals and exploring the dynamic between this, medical arrogance, predatory behavior, the deep-rooted misogyny within a system that defends deviant practitioners, and the mockery of any efforts to protect when they work in conjunction.
Unfortunately, in the second part, the victims’ narratives are overshadowed as the focus shifts to the Karbaat children reuniting and forming a casual alliance without any negative consequences or much thought given to their biological father’s actions. It is possible that those who are rightly appalled by their origins chose not to participate, resulting in a somewhat idealized depiction.
In the third installment, the focus shifts to the “superdonors” utilized by Karbaat, disregarding ethical, legal, and moral standards. This added more suffering to the already difficult lives of numerous women and children, with the exact number likely unknown due to Karbaat’s habit of destroying medical records when his filing system became overwhelmed.
Is it reassuring to think that there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to accurately tell these stories? That there will always be new instances of men committing heinous acts against women and avoiding consequences for years (or even permanently – as in the case of Karbaat who died at 89) due to patriarchal systems that prioritize protecting male interests over uncovering the truth? Not really.