Doctors Behaving Badly: Connecticut fertility doctor survives despite bombshell accusation

Published on
May 5, 2010

There are several ways to secure one's genetic line for at least another generation.

One can court another person, marry (or not), mate and bask in the many joys of parenthood.

Folks born without the proper equipment or in relationships that don't allow for simple reproduction can arrange for an egg donor, sperm donor or surrogate mother to help carry one's genes to a daughter or a son. Parenthood is just as fun.

And then there is what someday may be dubbed the Ramaley method.

Dr. Ben Ramaley, a Connecticut obstetrician-gynecologist who specialized in fertility treatments, opted to inseminate a patient with his own sperm, unbeknownst to the woman or her husband, according to a lawsuit filed by one of his patients. Ramaley has denied the accusation.

If this is truly what happened, it could have been an ingenious advance in the Darwinian fight for survival were it not for the fact that it violated medical ethics, state laws and basic human decency.

And, unlike the peppered moths in coal mining towns that have evolved over the years to match the soot-coated trees, Ramaley could not be called stealthy.

Ramaley is white. The father who was supposed to have his own genes inserted into the mother's egg was black.

When the mother gave birth to two light skinned baby girls in 2002, the parents were, undoubtedly, surprised. A paternity test in 2004 confirmed that the father was not the father, and Ramaley suddenly stood out like blue footed booby. Either he had implanted someone else's sperm or implanted his own. The parents sued in 2005 and settled with Ramaley out of court, leaving many details forever shrouded in secrecy.

This type of accusation can be a career killer for a fertility specialist. When three doctors at the University of California, Irvine were accused in 1995 of implanting women with the wrong eggs and embryos, two of them fled the country.

Proving that a cunning creature can survive given the right conditions and feeble competitors, Ramaley continued to thrive.

He maintained a license in Connecticut and in New York (License No. 120672) for seven years after the alleged event. The lawsuit in 2005 should have tipped off authorities, but, like woolly mammoths, medical boards can be plodding creatures.

New York's board in March 2009 forced Ramaley to give up his license, stopping short of accusing him of using his own sperm to impregnate the woman but instead saying he had used "the wrong man's sperm." Ramaley continues to work with an unrestricted Connecticut license. The Connecticut Department of Public Health didn't think the "wrong man's sperm" problem or the patient's lawsuit was worth much more than a $10,000 fine. The state ranked 47th out of 50 state medical boards for serious actions taken against physicians in a recent assessment by Public Citizen.

Only time will tell whether Ramaley's face will show up in kindergartens all over Connecticut.

Final question: Does a medical board have the legal authority to order a DNA test when a patient raises an accusation such as this? Should it have that power? It would be interesting to see which states have protected themselves with statutes that give them more power to follow-up on serious patient complaints. On its face, it seems like a violation of privacy, but, remember, physicians have to prove that they are fit to practice in each state and are granted a license by the state.

More and more employees of companies these days have to submit to random drug tests just for the ability to clock in and sit at a desk every day. Should there be a similar standard when allegations – and some evidence – are brought against a doctor?