The Fertility Scandal That Shocked The World Is Now A Must-Listen Podcast

As The Immaculate Deception explores the scandal of the Dutch fertility doctor who secretly fathered at least 60 children, Mark Smith speaks to one of the victims who unwittingly gave birth to his child.


by Mark Smith |
Updated on

Last year's Mother’s Day was unforgettable for Lidia Moret. It was the first time she’d seen her son Peter, now 38, since learning the truth about his identity, in a scenario she describes as ‘a nightmare’.

A few days earlier, Peter had called Lidia with astonishing news. With the help of the Dutch government, he’d established that his biological father was the now infamous rogue fertility doctor Jan Karbaat, who fathered at least 60 children by secretly using his own sperm to inseminate unsuspecting women seeking a donor.

Karbaat had died in 2017, aged 89, as allegations surrounding his malpractice in the Netherlands first gained momentum. Lidia, 69, was among those patients. ‘I immediately started to see Karbaat in [Peter’s] face,’ she recalls.

Now, the fertility scandal that shocked the world is the subject of a new podcast, The Immaculate Deception, by British journalist Jenny Kleeman. And whereas previous investigations have focused on the so-called Karbaat Kids, Lidia is the first mother to speak out about the bewildering experience of learning that your child isn’t who you thought they were.

It’s an experience akin to, well, what exactly? I ask Lidia. ‘It is abuse,’ she replies. ‘And I don’t know why he did it. Maybe he just thought he was god.’

She attended Karbaat’s clinic in the early 1980s, after years of trying for a baby with her first husband, Huib. Tests revealed that Huib’s sperm was, as Lidia puts it, ‘not right’, and their GP advised Lidia to consult Dr Karbaat’s practice near Rotterdam. Lidia remembers disliking the doctor, who made inappropriate remarks about the size of her breasts.

I don’t know why he did it. Maybe he just thought he was god.

‘I wore my baggiest, plainest clothes whenever I went to the clinic, to try to make myself invisible,’ she says.

Nevertheless, she deferred to Karbaat’s expertise – ‘He was the one with the degree and the white coat’ – and hoped he would help her fulfil her dream of motherhood; indirectly, of course. The doctor assured her she was receiving the frozen sperm of a donor chosen for his close resemblance to her husband.

When, after months of such visits, Lidia became pregnant, she was ecstatic. ‘All the doctor asked was that I send him a photo of the baby, and I did so with pleasure. Peter was the most beautiful child in the whole world,’ she recalls. ‘Life was good.’

In the two decades that followed, Lidia never spoke about using a donor spermto conceive ‘out of respect for my husband’. But after Huib died of colon cancer in 2003 – and Peter became worried about inheriting the illness – Lidia broke her silence. ‘I didn’t want to [tell anyone] – it felt like a betrayal,’ she says.

Peter took the news well, however, and, over the years, became increasingly curious about the identity of his biological father. After Dutch law changed, entitling donor- conceived children to help trace their genetic history, he – and Lidia – learned the full truth last year.

For Peter, the news that Karbaat was his father came with an upside. According to his mother, he enjoyed meeting a slew of half-siblings with whom he shares a striking likeness. But for Lidia, who now lives in Spain with her second husband, Fred, the discovery of what really went on at Karbaat’s clinic has been horrifying.

The sense of violation she feels has brought back traumatic memories of the sexual abuse she suffered as a nine-year-old – crimes that went unpunished, and for which she was made to feel ashamed.

‘Girls and women were not listened to in those days,’ she tells me now. She says she’s received no offer of counselling following the Karbaat scandal, but she is determined not to be silenced again. ‘I’ll tell anyone who listens about what happened, because I haven’t done anything wrong,’ she says.

She’s still shaken by Karbaat’s actions, but says she hopes to rebuild her self-esteem by talking about her ordeal.

‘Finally, a weight has been taken off my back,’ she says. ‘But it was a very heavy one.’

The Immaculate Deception is available on Apple, Spotify and all podcast providers.

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