Media Contacts

Chris Nelson

Phone: 801-581-7387

Apr 23, 2014 10:36 PM

Salt Lake City -- The University of Utah today announced the findings of an investigation into allegations of intentional tampering of a sperm preparation by a former University employee at a now-closed andrology laboratory. The review was conducted by a committee of three University physicians and their findings and recommendations were then reviewed by an outside legal ethicist.

The full report has been presented to the Branum family, who brought the issue to the attention of the University. The report will be posted in its entirety on the University’s website at www.communitylabfacts.org on Thursday, April 24 by 9 a.m.

Sean Mulvihill, M.D., associate vice president for clinical affairs and CEO of the University of Utah Medical Group, spoke with the Branums and apologized on behalf of the University earlier this week.

“No family should have to go through something like this, and we are deeply sorry for the stress and uncertainty this has caused their family,” Mulvihill said. “We also apologize to the other families who used this laboratory and have had to face the difficult decision of whether to seek paternity testing.”

Since January, five individuals have been tested by an independent laboratory on behalf of the University. To date, there is no evidence of additional unintended children of Thomas Lippert. However, the testing did uncover a possible laboratory error that resulted in the successful birth of a child from an anonymous sperm bank donor who was not the donor selected by the family. The University has confirmed the donor was not Thomas Lippert (who is now deceased) – based on a genetic sample the University has on file. The University is working with the family to further investigate.

“These events occurred almost 20 years ago, the lab is closed, the key principals are deceased, and the records from this era are incomplete. That said, we are committed to working with families who come forward to determine the truth to extent that we can. This includes continued paternity and genetic testing by an independent lab with the informed consent of family members. We have accepted responsibility for this situation and we will continue doing what we can to help provide those impacted with answers,” said Mulvihill.

Among the panel’s major findings and recommendations:

• Documents and information from witnesses indicate there is no evidence to explain how the sample switch might have occurred.

• The possibility of intentional tampering in this case by Lippert or another employee cannot be ruled out.

• The University of Utah should apologize to the Branum family for the switch in samples in 1991. Such a sample switch is unacceptable, whether caused by the unethical or irresponsible conduct of Mr. Thomas Lippert or any other employee of the University.

• The University of Utah should continue to offer paternity testing to determine whether Mr. Lippert is the biological father of children born to parents who were clients of the University of Utah’s 3900 South Community Laboratory during the time that Mr. Lippert was a Community Laboratory employee.

Members of the committee included University of Utah professors Jeffrey Botkin, M.D., John Bohnsack, M.D., and Thomas Miller, M.D. Alto Charo, a law professor and legal ethicist from the University of Wisconsin, reviewed the committee’s findings and provided input on the recommendations and findings.

Patients who utilized the lab in the late 1980s through 1998 (when the lab was closed) and have questions or wish to seek free paternity testing are encouraged to call the University at 801-587-5852.