Sperm Mix-Up Lawsuit: DNA Test Shows Dad Isn’t Daughter’s Father

AKRON, OH — So many things Jessica Harvey Galloway believed to be true — an Italian heritage that inspired her to plan a trip abroad to connect with ancestors — were turned upside down when she took a DNA test, a Christmas gift from her parents, two years ago.

And what the Cleveland woman discovered — that John “Mike” Harvey, her dad in every sense of the word that matters, except biologically — embroiled an Akron hospital in a major malpractice lawsuit.

The DNA test showed she had no Italian heritage at all. Instead, her biological father was another patient of Dr. Nicholas J. Spirtos, the fertility doctor Mike and Jeanine Harvey consulted in 1991 for in vitro fertilization, according to a lawsuit the Harveys filed Wednesday in the Court of Common Pleas in Summit County, Ohio.

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The Harveys are also suing Summa Health Systems’ Akron Campus, where Jeanine Harvey’s egg was fertilized with a stranger’s sperm.

The Ancestry.com DNA test that showed Galloway wasn’t biologically related to her dad upended the family’s life, raising questions that would have been unfathomable before the bombshell, including:

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Who, then, was Jessica’s biological father? How many families in their corner of Ohio are intertwined? Might she pass a brother or sister on the street and not know it?

The discovery “revealed a trauma I never could have imagined,” Galloway’s mother, Jeanine Harvey, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The worst things, she said in another interview, this one with news station WJW, the Fox affiliate in Cleveland, is what “we don’t know.”

“We don’t know if we were the only couples there that day, there may be two, three, four couples, maybe we’re all intertwined. We don’t know.”

Mike Harvey told “Good Morning America” the experience has been “like waking up in someone else’s life.”

Summa Health released a statement saying it takes the lawsuit allegations seriously and understands “the impact this has on the family.”

“At this point, we have not met with the family or conducted testing of our own,” the statement continued. “Given the very limited information that we have and the amount of time that has passed, it remains our hope that the attorneys representing the family will work with us to make that next step a priority.”

Pandora’s Box Of Paternity Secrets

The family’s experience isn’t all that uncommon.

Home DNA tests have become popular gifts for genealogy buffs and others who want to learn more about their ancestry, but they’ve also opened a Pandora’s box of paternity secrets.

And February is one of the busiest times of the year for Cleveland attorney Adam B. Wolf, who specializes in fertility fraud and is one of the Harveys’ lawyers.

“I have seen a substantial increase in cases over these past few years,” Wolf told NBC News last month. “Our clients typically call in February after receiving the results of the at-home DNA tests they receive for the holidays.”

A Largely Unregulated Field

Wolf told “Good Morning America” that the mistakes made in the past can’t be changed, but processes can.

“All we can do at this point is demand accountability and demand regulation and oversight so that we don’t have more people in the Harvey situation,” he said.

The law firm where he works, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, said the popularity of the tests has brought many more instances of fertility misconduct to light.

“These cases highlight the largely unregulated nature of the U.S. assisted reproductive technology industry,” the law firm said in a statement. “While a handful of states have enacted new laws to protect patients, there is no comprehensive federal oversight of the industry. U.S. nail salons are subject to far tighter state and federal controls.”

Galloway also called for reform.

“Truly there are no words to describe and express what I have been through and what my parents have been through,” Galloway told WJW.

“The regulations have to change. The chain of custody issue has to change, the training has to change. This can’t be happening in 2022, we shouldn’t be having this issue.”

She has discovered her biological father has Welsh and Irish ancestry. But that man she has called Dad all of her life is still her father.

“My priority going forward is focusing on my family, regardless of DNA or blood,” she told “Good Morning America.”

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