The Washington Post
By Julian Mark
After nine years of regular vaginal and breast examinations with her gynecologist, Morgan Hellquist slowly came to a distressing realization. The doctor whom she had trusted with countless examinations was, she suspected, her biological father.
The first inkling came during an appointment this April, Hellquist alleges in a lawsuit filed this weekend. Hellquist had never known her biological father, having been conceived via artificial insemination and born in September 1985. But she knew one thing, according to the lawsuit: The doctor, Morris Wortman, facilitated the artificial impregnation of her mother, though she and her family believed it had involved the sperm of a medical student.
During the April appointment, as Wortman conducted a vaginal ultrasound on Hellquist, the doctor had allegedly asked Hellquist to take off her mask because she looked better without one. Wortman also invited his wife into the examination room to meet Hellquist so she could look at the woman’s features and discern a physical resemblance to Wortman, the lawsuit alleges.
Then Wortman allegedly said: “You’re really a good kid, such a good kid.”
That is when it dawned on Hellquist that Wortman, a man she had known since childhood and from whom she had been receiving medical care for nearly a decade, might be her biological father. She later discovered, according to the lawsuit, that the Rochester, N.Y., doctor may have fathered six other children she had located over the course of several years starting in 2017.
A DNA test a month later suggested that she was Wortman’s biological daughter, the lawsuit says.
Hellquist “was in shock and disbelief that he would continue [to] treat her as her gynecologist if she were his biological daughter,” the lawsuit states.
Now, Hellquist is suing Wortman, alleging medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, battery, fraud, negligence and infliction of emotional distress. The complaint alleges that, in 1985, Wortman impregnated Hellquist’s mother, Jo Ann Levey, with his own sperm while telling her it was from a medical student — and that Wortman nevertheless began to treat the daughter he helped create, starting when she was 26.
Wortman did not respond to phone messages from The Washington Post.
Tales of doctors surreptitiously impregnating patients with their own sperm are not uncommon. Dozens accused Quincy Fortier, a respected obstetrician, of being their biological father — saying he secretly inseminated their mothers as they were being treated at a hospital in Las Vegas. In July, hundreds of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit reached a tentative settlement for $10.7 million with an Ottawa-based fertility doctor whom they allege artificially inseminated women with the wrong sperm and, in some cases, his own.
In Hellquist’s case, Wortman helped her mother with an artificial insemination in the early ‘80s after Hellquist’s father, Gary Levey, was struck by a drunk driver and paralyzed from the waist down, the lawsuit says. The Leveys had two requirements: The donor needed to have a clean medical history and northern European heritage matching that of the Levey family. Wortman told the family a medical student would donate the sperm, according to the lawsuit.
For about a year, Jo Ann Levey tried and failed to conceive after multiple artificial insemination attempts. But in 1985, Levey became pregnant. On Sept. 19 that year, Morgan was born.
When the girl was 8 years old, the Leveys told Morgan that Gary was not her biological father and that she was conceived artificially. The lawsuit says Morgan’s parents also told her about Wortman, whom they praised as a talented doctor who delivered them the miracle of her birth. As Morgan matured, married and had children, she maintained an affinity for Wortman, the lawsuit says.
So when the 26-year-old Hellquist began to suffer irregular menstrual bleeding, she sought help from Wortman. From 2012 until 2021, he remained her doctor, performing examinations and medical procedures that required Hellquist to be under conscious sedation, according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Hellquist began a search for the medical student she believed was her biological father. An initial genetic test showed that she was half Jewish, but she had no luck finding the medical student. Instead, in 2017, she learned she had two half-brothers, both of whom were half Jewish, donor-conceived and born in the mid-1980s. A year later, Hellquist discovered two more half-siblings, who were also donor-conceived, half Jewish and born in the ’80s. In the following years, Hellquist found two more half-siblings with the same story.
Hellquist feared that her father was a serial sperm donor and that “there were other half-siblings who would continue to show up in her life,” according to the lawsuit.
After each discovery, Hellquist notified Wortman, the lawsuit says. And this past April 12, she found herself in Wortman’s private office, where she came to suspect he was the serial sperm donor. Still, she thought, it was inconceivable that “Wortman would knowingly treat his own biological daughter as a gynecology patient for almost a decade,” the lawsuit states.
But a month later, a DNA test confirmed it, she said in the lawsuit. One of her half-brothers had been in touch with one of Wortman’s known daughters, and the test found that there was a 99.99 percent chance they were siblings. That test, Hellquist says in her lawsuit, suggests Wortman is her father.
If Hellquist had known this, the lawsuit says, “she would never consent to being a patient in his gynecology practice.”
By Julian Mark
Julian Mark is a reporter on The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team. Before joining The Post, he covered housing and policing for Mission Local in San Francisco.