In 1989, while in his first year of medical school, Bryce Cleary of Corvallis, Ore. first donated his sperm to Oregon Health and Sciences University.
He believed his sperm would be used for a research study on fertility that would produce no more than five children from his sperm. Cleary says the university also promised that his identity would be kept private and the children would not be in the region.
That's not what happened.
In the spring of 2018, Cleary was contacted by two adult sisters who claimed Cleary was their father. He has since learned, three decades after donating his sperm for research purposes, that 17 children—maybe more—have been born from his sperm donation. Most of those births happened in Oregon.
Cleary is now suing OHSU for fraud, breach of contract and intentional emotional distress in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
At a press conference today, Cleary was joined by two of his children, one an offspring of his donated sperm, to announce the lawsuit.
It was the first time Cleary had met 25-year old Allysen Allee.
Cleary was visibly emotional at the press conference, flanked by his lawyer, Allee, and one of this four custodial children, James Cleary.
"What's true is that this was a deception and this was fraud, and I don't know if it continues today. As far as I can tell there aren't many regulations, fertility clinics can do whatever they want to do," Cleary says. "They're messing with people's lives."
Cleary says OHSU promised at the time of Cleary's sperm donation that the maximum of five children produced from the sperm would not be born in the Northwest, because "distance greatly reduced the risk of incidental, platonic, and/or romantic contact of interaction between the offspring conceived via the fertility clinic and Plaintiff, together with Plaintiff's future custodial children," the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also says that OHSU did not keep track of any of Cleary's sperm that was used in other states.
Cleary made multiple donations over several years during medical school—he doesn't recall how many— but recalls he was paid $40 per donation.
Cleary is requesting no more than $4.25 million in non-economic damages—such as emotional anguish—and for economic damages not exceeding $1 million.
"I can't control the industry but I can stand up and say, "This is the rule," says Cleary.
At the press conference, Cleary said his family has struggled since the revelation and his custodial children are attempting to stay separate from the issue.
"When I first found out, it was very difficult for my wife. She was concerned about me being emotionally involved with the donor kids, and at the time I had no idea the scope and thought, this will be fine," said Cleary. "And then at some point I just thought, this is crazy. I can't be emotionally invested with all these people."
Allyson Allee says she started finding donor siblings via ancestry sites in 2015. So far she has connected with six of them, and is close friends with one donor sibling of hers—even vacationing together.
Allee has not joined the lawsuit, saying she worries more about justice and Cleary's emotional-well being than compensation.
"I'm much more worried about how this affects my kids, and their kids," says Allee.
His attorney, Chris Best, says that OHSU was "selling it at a profit" and lied about the distribution of his sperm.
It is unknown whether or not his sperm is still available for donation, and Cleary and his lawyer are waiting to hear back from OHSU about the allegations.
Best says what most concerns Cleary and his family is "the exponential growth" of the number of future kids who could come into contact with one another down the road.
Best says this is the first case like this that they're aware of in the United States.
Cleary admitted that he originally had doubts about whether to sue OHSU for fear of potentially exposing donor children of his who did not wish for publicity.
"I want to respect their privacy and the last thing I want is for someone to be outed as a donor kid," Cleary says. "I don't want to complicate any of their lives. So that's been a big battle, is by making it public do you cause people to lose their privacy?"