When the Doctor Is in Your DNA

Ten years ago, when Morgan Hellquist, a married art teacher with two kids, was having some issues with her period and needed a new gynecologist, Morris Wortman, MD, seemed like the obvious choice. Wortman ran a Rochester, New York, clinic treating menstrual disorders, and posted YouTube videos in which he would opine on treating endometrial ablation failures while dressed in royal-blue scrubs, his bald head reflecting the overhead lighting.

As now outlined in a civil lawsuit, Wortman wasn't just admired in the broader community; he was also worshiped in Hellquist's home. Since she was eight years old, Hellquist's parents had told her about the "miracle worker" doctor who helped them overcome her father's paralysis so they could have a baby using anonymous donor sperm. "He was very much part of our story," says Hellquist, 36. The first time Hellquist met Wortman in his office, she says she was "a little fangirl-y." She reminded him that her mother had been his patient, that he was responsible for her conception. While she was initially impressed by Wortman's intelligence and diligence, over her nine years as his patient, Hellquist became increasingly uncomfortable. "Sometimes, he would be very professional and empathetic," she says. "And sometimes, he was super inappropriate."

Curious about her biological origins, Hellquist connected with some half siblings online, who she presumed were fathered by the same donor. And, to her surprise, a genetic test indicated she was 50 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, even though her parents had requested that the donor not be from any one specific ethnic heritage so the child could match their own mixed backgrounds. As these new discoveries emerged, she shared them with Wortman. According to the complaint, Wortman, himself Jewish, told her that her challenging PMS was all in her head, the result of being a "Jewish American Princess."

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