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Indiana women sue Netflix for outing them as disgraced Indy fertility doctor's 'secret children'

Dr. Donald Cline inseminated dozens of women with his own sperm without their knowledge or consent during the 1970s and 1980s. He had an estimated 94 children.

INDIANAPOLIS — Two Marion County women are suing Netflix and the creators of "Our Father" over the popular documentary identifying them — without their consent — as two of a disgraced Indianapolis fertility doctor's nearly 100 secret children.

Both women filed separate lawsuits in Marion County on Saturday, accusing Blumhouse Productions and Netflix of knowingly and intentionally publishing their private information to hundreds of thousands of Indiana residents. 

In 2020, Blumhouse Productions began producing a documentary about how Dr. Donald Cline inseminated dozens of women with his own sperm without their knowledge or consent during the 1970s and 1980s.

It wasn't until 2015, when some of the secret children began taking at-home DNA tests, that Cline's covert insemination of the women over his 40-year career was uncovered.

As the film was being produced, the production company reached out to some of Cline's estimated 94 children.

Both women's lawsuits say when they were approached by Blumhouse, the company made clear that none of the secret children would be identified in the documentary without their explicit consent.

RELATED: More 'secret children' come forward in fertility doctor's case

The lawsuits list multiple times the company reiterated this promise in writing.

One of these instances was on April 26, 2021, when the lawsuits say producer Michael Petrella wrote to the secret children, saying: 

“I know that some of you were more comfortable than others being involved...You will not be identified (unless you’ve already given us explicit permission to do so..."

Still, one of the women, who wasn't named in the lawsuit, claims that in May she discovered she was identified in the film. Netflix released the documentary on May 11.

The lawsuit alleges both women's names and photos are shown in the documentary as a secret child "match," despite the women not consenting to be identified. One of the women claims to not have even given the documentary any photos to use.

RELATED: Fertility doctor who used own sperm, lied surrenders license

After its release, the film quickly took off. It was listed on Netflix as "Trending Now," in the "Top 10" movies and TV shows, and as the streaming platform's second most-watched movie.

Millions of people have watched the film in the month of May alone and the lawsuit says at least 250,000 Indiana residents have watched the documentary so far. 

The lawsuits say that identifying them as secret children to the world has caused them "severe harm, including, but not limited to, reputational injury, distress, embarrassment, and emotional trauma." 

In addition to this, the clip that identifies them in the film has also been posted across social media by official Blumhouse Productions accounts and affiliate accounts. 

One of the lawsuits asks the court to order Blumhouse and Netflix to stop using one of the women's name, image or likenesses to identify her as a secret child in the documentary and online. The other woman's lawsuit seeks to have just her name removed. 

Both women are also seeking compensatory damages.

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