If, like us, you spend 50% of your time thinking about true crime documentaries – and the other 50% of the time scrolling through the true crime section on Netflix looking for the next one to watch – then you'll most likely have a list of series and investigative films that are on your must-watch list. Top of that list ought to be Netflix's Our Father, which is due for release next month and will explore the shady dealings of Dr Donald Cline.
Ahead of Our Father's release – on 11 May – here's everything you need to know about the true story behind the documentary, including who is Donald Cline, and where is he now?
What is Our Father about?
"Our Father tells the story of Jacoba Ballard and her half-siblings – over 50 people in total – who discovered that they were all paternally related through Donald Cline, a former fertility doctor in Indianapolis," the Netflix synopsis of Our Father reads. "The doc follows the criminal investigation into Cline’s actions, his possible motives and the compounding impact of his lies and abuse."
Netflix adds that the true crime special also "examines the legalities around fertility fraud" as well as "how the newfound accessibility in genealogy testing, through companies like 23andMe, has uncovered more stories like Cline’s."
Who is Our Father's Donald Cline?
Donald Cline, who was once described as the "best infertility doctor in Indianapolis", was known for being a premier fertility expert in the 1970s to 1990s. During this time, hopeful parents-to-be flocked to Cline's surgery with dreams of welcoming a child of their own.
But, with neither his patients' knowledge nor consent, the doctor used his own sperm to inseminate them and across the 70s and 80s, Cline fathered at least 50 children – some of whom went on to connect and uncover his deceit decades later.
How did Donald Cline's deceit come to light?
"Jacoba Ballard always knew she was conceived via sperm donation. But when she decided to take a DNA test to learn more about her biological background, she didn’t expect to find a seemingly endless roster of half-siblings," the Netflix synopsis explains of how Cline's story unravelled. "After months of research and conversations with her many 23andMe matches, Ballard began to piece together the disturbing truth: Donald Cline, a man known as one of the most renowned fertility experts in Indiana, had inseminated dozens of women with his own sperm without their consent or knowledge."
Speaking to The Atlantic, Ballard revealed that she was one of the first to connect the dots when it came to Cline's deceit. As part of the publication's investigation into the fertility doctor, Ballard explained how she met a woman on an online forum for donor-conceived children. The pair bonded over the knowledge that their parents had both sought help from Cline, but when Ballard looked the woman up on Facebook, she was shocked by the similarities in their appearance. Confronted with the possibility that they could be related, the two women decided to get at-home DNA kits, later discovering that not only were they half-sisters, but that they had many more siblings.
"When I opened up Ancestry [a genealogy site], I had over 3,000 hits," said one of the siblings featured in Netflix's documentary. "All of these random names were popping up, and it said 'Close Family'," recalled another.
Where is Our Father's Donald Cline now?
Despite the shocking nature of his actions, Cline's fertility fraud is not classed as a crime under federal or state law in Indiana. As such, the doctor's victims – both the parents and children conceived – have, according to Netflix, "struggled to find adequate legal justice".
However, in 2017, Cline was convicted on two felony counts for obstructing the police's investigation into the matter and he was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence. Cline was later stripped of his medical license, and in 2018 the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana moved to prohibit the former fertility doctor from applying to reinstate his license in the future.
Since then, Cline has kept an incredibly low-profile, and his exact whereabouts – or what he is up to know – is unknown.
Our Father is available to stream on Netflix from 11 May.
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