Sunday, December 4, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Specialist Known for Cloning Claim Accused of Using Own Sperm on Patient

A fertility doctor once roundly criticized for claiming he cloned human embryos is now accused of lying to a patient and using his own sperm during an in vitro fertilization procedure.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (CN) --- A Kentucky woman who underwent in vitro fertilization in 1989 and eventually gave birth to a daughter claims in court that the fertility specialist who performed the procedure used his own semen, despite telling her the sample was from a 24-year-old college student.

Diane White says in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Fayette County Circuit Court that Panayiotis Michael Zavos, or P.M. Zavos, lied about the semen used in her procedure and is actually the father of her child.

Zavos, who allegedly does not hold any degrees that allow him to practice medicine, was born in Cyprus in 1944 and achieved some degree of notoriety when he made unsubstantiated claims he could clone human embryos in 2004 and again in 2009.

Long before that, however, White says he worked at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, and claimed to practice "fertility medicine," despite having no medical degrees.

White was referred to Zavos by her gynecologist after she expressed an interest in in vitro fertilization, and was told by Zavos her sperm donor would be a medical school student with Nordic and Scandinavian features.

After several unsuccessful attempts, White became pregnant and eventually gave birth to her daughter in October 1989, but she says it was immediately apparent "the baby had dark hair and olive skin, and had no Nordic features," her complaint states.

More concerning were several health issues, including jaundice and a low heart rate that required the baby to remain at the hospital, according to the lawsuit. White says when called Zavos to discuss the donor's medical history, he "sounded very nervous" and denied any issues with his donors.

Nearly two decades later, in 2018, White's daughter took an ancestry DNA test that "confirmed she had no Nordic, Scandinavian, or other light-skinned ancestry," the complaint states.

A subsequent DNA test, the results of which White included as an exhibit in her lawsuit, "show beyond any reasonable doubt that Dr. Zavos is the father of Ms. White's child," she claims.

Zavos did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment sent through his website. He is named alongside Baptist Healthcare as a defendant in the suit, which also includes details of other allegedly fraudulent conduct by Zavos.

Zavos, whom White says is a professor emeritus of reproductive physiology at the University of Kentucky, has been allegedly forced to close several businesses for failing to comply with Kentucky's filing requirements, and also pleaded guilty in 2014 to federal charges that stemmed from the sale of misbranded in-home fertility kits.

No information about Zavos or his status as a professor could be found on the University of Kentucky's website.

White says she believed Zavos was a practicing and licensed physician at the time of the in vitro fertilization, but later discovered his only doctorate degree is in animal physiology.

This belief, according to the complaint, is sufficient to overcome any concerns about the statute of limitations related to her claims.

"Any applicable statute of limitations is inapplicable here," the lawsuit says, "because this action is brought within one year of the confirmation by a DNA test by Ms. White that Dr. Zavos was the biological father of her child, a fact that neither Dr. Zavos or Baptist Health has told her to this day."

White seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, consumer law, and battery claims, and is represented by attorney Richard Rawdon Jr. of Georgetown, Kentucky.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...