‘I knew at that moment I was related to these people’: Finding new siblings silver lining for Barwin babies
DNA testing has confirmed the Victoria resident is one of 17 known “Barwin babies,” all conceived with the fertility doctor’s sperm without their parents’ knowledge.
The first time Marie Dubrule saw her siblings was on a television news program about disgraced Ottawa fertility physician Dr. Norman Barwin. Transfixed, she instantly felt a connection.
Something about the way they moved, their striking brown eyes and dark hair and their mannerisms were intimately familiar to Dubrule, who shares many of their traits.
“I knew at that moment I was related to these people.”
It was the culmination of a feeling that had weighed on Dubrule since learning she was conceived through artificial insemination at Barwin’s clinic.
DNA testing has since confirmed the 39-year-old Ottawa native is one of 17 known “Barwin babies,” all conceived with the fertility doctor’s sperm without their parents’ knowledge.
Not long after seeing them on TV, Dubrule was able to embrace two of her siblings. Her half-brother, James Millar from Vancouver Island, and half-sister, Kat Palmer from Vancouver, came to visit her where she now lives, in Victoria.
The experience was surreal.
“We just connected. It was a non-stop conversation,” Dubrule said. “It is really something else, seeing the similarities. You don’t want to stop looking at them.”
Palmer, who grew up in Ottawa as an only child, has since become a doting aunt to Dubrule’s children.
The experience prompted Dubrule to connect with most of her other siblings, who refer to each other as brothers and sisters, dropping the “half.”
With the conclusion of a groundbreaking class-action lawsuit against Barwin, Dubrule is speaking publicly for the first time since learning the truth about her parentage in 2019.
It has been a journey that caused her to briefly lose her sense of identity, she said, but has also given her something she could not have imagined: sisters and brothers, a family who are connected to her in a way no one else is.
“I was (initially) distraught, angry and disgusted with Dr. Barwin,” she said. “But seeing these siblings of mine and knowing they would be able to coach me along, it wound up being quite hopeful.”
In the coming months, Dubrule will receive a $40,000 settlement. She is one of more than 200 people involved in the lawsuit, including 100 children conceived through fertility treatments at Barwin’s clinic, 17 of them using his own sperm, others the result of sample mix-ups.
Other plaintiffs include parents who sought treatment with Barwin and men who stored sperm at his clinic. The settlement worth up to $13.375 million was approved last week by a Superior Court judge.
Dubrule says the money cannot make up for what Barwin has done. He has been disciplined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, but does not accept responsibility.