MAIA Emmons-Boring, 41, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband Brent, 42, a truck driver, and their youngest daughter Larissa, 16.
“Staring at my laptop, anger swept over me. For weeks I’d been piecing together my family tree, and now it was in front of me.
"But my biological father wasn’t the man I’d called Dad – it was my parents’ fertility doctor.
Growing up in Colorado, I was always close to my parents Cheryl, now 69, and John, 67, and sisters Tahnee, 36, and Grace, 29.
After I married Brent in 1998 and we had our children Hannah, 23, Kirstine, 21, Seth, 19, and Larissa, 16, we remained tight-knit.
In October 2018, I saw an advert for an at-home DNA test and decided to do one, as I’m fascinated by genealogy.
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Six weeks later, I was emailed the results, which revealed that I had some English and German heritage, but I didn’t think much of it.
Three days later, another email from the DNA company arrived.
It was from a woman called Crystal, who said she’d been conceived through sperm donation and our results showed we were half-siblings.
Confused, I asked Brent what it meant.
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When he said it meant Dad wasn’t my father, I sank to the floor.
Had I been conceived using donor sperm too? Or had Mum had an affair?
After a sleepless night, I broke the news to Tahnee and Grace, who couldn’t believe it, then went to my parents and explained what I’d learned.
The colour drained from Mum’s face, then Dad admitted he had been left infertile following testicular cancer when he was 18.
They’d gone to a fertility doctor called Dr Paul Jones, who had carried out artificial insemination using sperm from an anonymous medical student.
Tahnee and I had been conceived this way, while Grace was a miracle baby.
Seeing their faces etched with fear, I felt compassion.
Back then, there was stigma around male infertility, and they’d never told a soul how they’d become parents.
I thought back to my memories with Dad – him letting me put his hair in pigtails and never missing one of my dance shows.
He couldn’t have loved me more if I was his biological child.
There was more shocking news to come. The DNA website had found another four half-siblings.
I contacted them and learned we’d been born between 1979 and 1997.
'DAD WAS DEVASTATED'
When I realised our parents had all used Dr Jones, a horrifying thought struck me. Had he used his own sperm?
I used all the data I could to draw up a ‘mirror tree’ – something genealogists use to identify a missing common ancestor – which proved Dr Jones’ mother was my grandmother and he was my father.
Dad was devastated at the deceit.
Mum wept and said she felt like she’d been raped.
Through a lawyer, my half-siblings and I contacted Dr Jones in April 2019.
In his 80s and still practising medicine, we asked him to admit being our biological father and share his health history.
But there was no response, and I was horrified to learn that, in Colorado, what he’d done wasn’t illegal.
Over the next six months, my mental health plummeted and I suffered panic attacks, but I decided to fight.
I contacted Kerry Tipper, a democratic state representative and, with her help, in July 2020 it became illegal in Colorado for a doctor to use his sperm without his patient’s consent.
My half-siblings and I filed a civil lawsuit against Dr Jones and his clinic on the grounds of fraud, breach of contract, gross negligence, extreme and outrageous conduct and medical battery.
In April, I looked him in the eye in court – he smiled and it was a horrible moment.
The jury found him guilty on all charges, awarding nearly £7.5million to families.
At the last count, there were 18 of us half-siblings, some as far afield as Amsterdam and Canada.
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We stay in touch online and some have met in real life – not just to build bonds, but to also make sure none of our children ever date one another accidentally.
I still have a great relationship with my parents, and I’ve learned so much about myself – not just the truth about my biology, but the strength of my character.”
Dr Donald Cline is thought to have fathered more than 90 children by using his sperm without mothers’ knowledge.
In the UK, sperm donations from a single donor may be used to create a maximum of 10 families.
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