Related topics

Woman Gets AIDS After Insemination Attempt; Doctor Reprimanded

September 18, 1992

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A doctor who helped a couple try to conceive through artificial insemination even though the man had the AIDS virus has been reprimanded by a regulatory board.

The woman contracted the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, after attempts at insemination using a controversial technique called ″sperm- washing″ that tries to remove the virus from the sperm through separation and filtration.

Dr. Lyman M. Fisher, a hematologist at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond, was reprimanded by the state Board of Medicine on Wednesday. A reprimand is a blemish on a physician’s record but doesn’t carry any penalties.

″You have conducted your practice in such a manner as to endanger the health, safety and welfare″ of the woman, the board said.

Fisher’s attorney, William D. Bayliss, said his client acted properly.

The woman tested positive for the virus in January 1990 after three insemination attempts in the previous five months. She didn’t get pregnant.

The Centers for Disease Control has said it can never be proven how the woman got AIDS, but the couple used condoms during sex and didn’t engage in any high-risk behavior. The couple hasn’t been identified.

The man, a hemophiliac who contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion, told Fisher he wanted to artificially inseminate his wife, said Wayne Farrar, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health Professions.

Fisher referred them to a fertility specialist, Dr. Robert J. Fierro.

Farrar said both doctors suggested the couple try the ″sperm-washing″ procedure, and warned them there was a slight risk of transmitting the virus.

The CDC has cautioned against the technique and AIDS experts say there is little evidence that it works.

″I don’t think we should be pushing things that are life-threatening,″ said Dr. Brian Wispelwey, director of the AIDS clinic at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.

Fierro, who goes before the board on Sept. 30, told the panel he doesn’t routinely handle AIDS cases, and thought sperm-washing worked because Fisher sent him a scientific article indicating its effectiveness.

Fisher said he didn’t remember sending Fierro the article.

Fierro wasn’t in his office and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. His attorney, Michael Goodman, said only the case was ″unfortunate.″

In January 1990, the CDC said it had received reports of at least two other couples who tried artificial insemination despite one spouse’s AIDS infection. One attempt resulted in pregnancy, and the other did not. No AIDS transmission had been detected at that time in the non-infected spouses.

Update hourly