The disturbing and shocking true story behind Our Father documentary on Netflix

The film about disgraced fertility doctor Donald Cline is out now

Netflix has just released its latest documentary, Our Father, which is based on the disturbing true story of fertility doctor Donald Cline. You might think this case belongs right in the centre of the true crime genre, but that’s one of the shocking parts, the horrible things the doctor did weren’t actually classed as illegal.

Donald Cline was a top fertility doctor who had a sickening secret: He was using his own sperm to impregnate female patients, without them knowing. Decades later, his “children” have band together to pursue justice.

Here’s everything you need to know about the shocking true case Our Father on Netflix is about, and the story behind the documentary film.

The true story behind Our Father documentary on Netflix and the case of doctor Donald Cline

via Netflix

Our Father on Netflix tells the true story of fertility doctor Donald Cline

Donald Cline was a well respected, top fertility doctor in Indiana. In the 1970s onwards, if you were struggling to conceive and lived in that area, it was highly likely you would end up in the care of Donald Cline. However, he is believed to have fathered up to 90 children without consent, in the 70s and 80s. Cline retired from practice in 2009, but had practised over a period of around 40 years. During this time, DNA testing was not around, so Cline had the assumption he would never be caught out.

Cline’s patients had been told they were being given the sperm of a donor, with the doctor’s speciality being that he gave women “fresh” sperm rather than sperm which had previously been frozen. Cline told his patients they shouldn’t tell their children how they were conceived.

Our Father’s director, Lucie Jourdan, said in an interview with The Guardian: “​​It was a very specific directive that you never ever tell your children you had fertility issues or insemination. This was part of the dialogue he had with his patients. They were trusting their doctor to give them the right advice.” But, it had only helped him get away with it.

via Netflix

So, how was Cline caught?

In 2014, when DNA testing was very much a thing, Jacoba Ballard took a 23andMe test and discovered she had multiple half-siblings. Jacoba Ballard was an only child, conceived via donor sperm, and her test helped her discover the shocking scheme. The siblings became friends, and realised all their parents had been treated by Cline. They then began to uncover more and more about their family tree and pursued justice against Donald Cline’s dark web of deceit. DNA testing confirmed Cline had not being using sperm donors at all.

According to The Atlantic, Ballard was one of the first siblings to piece together the details in the story. She told the publication she found her first half-sister on an online forum for donor-conceived children, and they connected over the fact their parents both worked with Cline. When she looked the woman up on Facebook, she was struck by their physical similarities. They then got DNA tests, and soon realised this was just the beginning.

The true story behind Our Father documentary on Netflix and the case of doctor Donald Cline

via Netflix

When Ballard went to authorities with their findings, she was pretty much ignored. There were no specific criminal charges Cline could be indicted on – there wasn’t actually a law which stated a doctor couldn’t inseminate his patients with his own sperm.

The story was picked up in the news, and Cline was eventually taken to court. In 2017, Cline was convicted of just two things – hindering the investigation and lying about using his own sperm. He was fined just $500 (£400) and lost his medical licence. It is believed he has fathered between 50 to 90 children, with Ballard saying more and more siblings crop up to this day. “We actually had a new sibling pop up the day the [Our Father] trailer dropped,” she said.

Our Father is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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• Ranked: The best true crime documentaries on Netflix, according to Rotten Tomatoes