Letter to the editor: A recent investigation about a fertility doctor’s secret use of his own sperm did not properly highlight the nature of his appalling actions.
My family and I were recently reading the article “An Unknown Mishpachah”, and I wanted to write in with some deep concerns we had. We found Dr. Philip Peven’s actions absolutely appalling and not ethical, both medically and Jewishly speaking. The article painted Dr. Peven in a sympathetic light and not in the way that I think a journalist ethically has the responsibility to paint someone who has committed such disturbing actions.
Dr. Peven is referred in the article as “a well-respected doctor,” and there are countless quotes included by folks that refer to him in a wonderful light such as “Jamie has come to think of him as a scientific man who was just trying to help families become whole,” “considered to be a very competent obstetrician-gynecologist,” “Jean … prefers the term “donor dad.”
Though the small section in the middle covers the discussion around fertility fraud, it does so in a light that does not seem to really condone the actions, nor is there the word “crime” or “criminal” anywhere in the article. A doctor who performs a medical treatment without consent, when the patient is able to consent, is committing medical malpractice and would, and should, be prosecuted in Michigan.
I understand the article covers other elements of the story, such as the biological children learning that they are Jewish, but the author missed the opportunity to do their due diligence and name these disturbing actions for what they are. There is a pattern in this country of male doctors doing things for and to their female patients without their consent, which is what Dr. Peven did in this case by eliminating their decision to use their chosen sperm donor and secretly replacing the sperm with his own.
I think we have a responsibility when telling stories to name harmful actions when they take place. Language matters and what we use to describe people, their actions, and the repercussions of their actions shapes future stories and future actions of others.
— Tamara Stein
Suffolk University Law School, JD Candidate
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