I knew at that moment I was related to these people: Finding new siblings silver lining for Barwin babies – Ottawa Citizen

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We just connected. It was a non-stop conversation, Dubrule said. It is really something else, seeing the similarities. You dont want to stop looking at them.

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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.

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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 Barwins clinic.

DNA testing has since confirmed the 39-year-old Ottawa native is one of 17 known Barwin babies, all conceived with the fertility doctors 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.

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The experience was surreal.

We just connected. It was a non-stop conversation, Dubrule said. It is really something else, seeing the similarities. You dont want to stop looking at them.

Palmer, who grew up in Ottawa as an only child, has since become a doting aunt to Dubrules 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.

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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 Barwins 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.

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No amount of money could have been that (justice) for me, Dubrule said, but there is a silver lining. For me, finding my siblings is my justice.

She wants to share her story in case there are other siblings who have not yet been identified.

Palmer also believes there might be more sisters and brothers who have not come forward or are unaware. She was one of the first to be identified as the biological child of her parents fertility doctor, along with Rebecca Dixon, the Ottawa woman who was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit with her parents. Palmer, 30, is among the youngest of the group. Dixon is 31.

During the holiday season, when DNA testing kits are popular gifts, Palmer said she and Dixon have braced themselves to hear from people who learn via tests that they are connected to the case. This is something that is not going to end for us, she said, adding the secrecy continuing to blanket the fertility industry means it is likely there are more siblings out there who dont know it.

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And, despite years of publicity around their case, the fertility industry is largely unchanged, she said.

Dubrule grew up in Ottawa believing she was her fathers biological daughter and a full sister to her brother. When she was a teenager, her father told her shed been conceived by artificial insemination using his sperm.

In 2019, her mother mentioned that shed been a patient of Barwins and Dubrule became curious. That was when she saw the television news clip of her siblings.

Like some of the other lawsuit plaintiffs, Dubrule said she always felt different in her family. Her mother, father, and brother have blue eyes; she has brown. Her features are different.

She didnt tell her parents about her connection to Barwin until she was sure, but when she did, both her parents were supportive.

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Her mother told her she wouldnt want her to be anyone other than who you are, who I see sitting here in front of me. Her father told her she would always be the gift in my old age. Both of her parents have since died.

Dubrule says she has no wish to meet or speak with Barwin, but she looks forward to continuing to get to know her siblings and to better understand herself. I think now I am able to understand who I see in the mirror a little bit more.

Palmer, meanwhile, will continue to advocate for change in the fertility industry. Without that, she said, there will likely be more cases such as this one.

Among other things, she wants to see a registry of donor-conceived births in Canada and laws mandating health records of donors are kept, updated and available to their children. She also wants tough regulations, inspections and enforcement of the fertility industry.

For me, it was never about the money. That was just the only option available to us. I wanted to see changes in the industry so this didnt happen again, she said.

Palmer, like her sisters and brothers, is enjoying nurturing new relationships.

The silver lining is definitely having all these people who are willing to be family and fill that role.

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I knew at that moment I was related to these people: Finding new siblings silver lining for Barwin babies - Ottawa Citizen

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