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Former patients and children reach $13-million settlement with Ottawa fertility doctor

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OTTAWA —
An Ontario Superior Court judge has certified a $13.375-million class-action lawsuit against an Ottawa fertility doctor who used the wrong sperm to artificially inseminate patients.

Nelligan Law says the proposed settlement against Dr. Norman Barwin is the first of its kind in the world.

The settlement provides compensation to patients and their children where the DNA of the child is not as was intended by the parents at the time of artificial insemination performed by Barwin.

The class action lawsuit was launched in November 2016 by Davina Dixon, Daniel Dixon and Rebecca Dixon. In 1989, Davina and Daniel Dixon went to Barwin for assistance in conceiving a child. Rebecca was born on June 1, 1990. Up until 2016, all three believed Rebecca was the biological child of Davina and Daniel. DNA testing confirmed that Barwin is Rebecca’s biological father.

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“This settlement is an acknowledgment of the very profound disruption of something fundamental to us all – the makeup of our families – that so many former patients of Barwin and their children have endured,” said Peter Cronyn of Nelligan Law.

Cronyn tells CTV News Ottawa there are currently 226 people involved in the class-action, including 126 parents and 100 children. Nelligan Law says 17 people have discovered Barwin is their biological father, while 83 people do not know the identity of their biological father. 

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Former patients and children will be eligible for compensation up to $50,000. 

Part of the settlement will include money to operate a DNA database to help former patients to determine the identity of their biological father.

“I don’t think that the end of the legal case will end this for any of us. I don’t think it exactly brings closure,” said Rebecca Dixon in an interview with CTV News Ottawa Wednesday afternoon.

“I think the reality is this is a permanent change in our lives and we’ll all be dealing with the repercussions for the rest of our lives. I do think it will help people come to terms with it and kind of learn to accept and be able to live a little bit more easily without the legal process hanging over them.”

The settlement does say the class-action lawsuit is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Barwin. “The defendant similarly has concluded that this agreement is desirable in order to avoid the time, risk and expense of continuing with the litigation,” said the settlement.

The court will review the settlement at a hearing on Nov. 1.

“I’ve definitely invested a lot in forming relationships with my half-siblings and that has allowed me to find some positive thing from this and to find opportunities to develop relationships with them and sort of share this experience with them,” said Dixon, adding it’s been a five year process since the class action lawsuit was launched in 2016. 

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“I certainly think that my half-siblings will be in my life permanently.”

In 2019, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario revoked the license of Dr. Barwin, ruling he committed professional misconduct and failed to maintain the standards of the profession.

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