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Fertility doctor brought hope, misery

He called himself "the Babymaker."

"God doesn't give you babies, I do," he allegedly told patients.

And for many infertile couples, Dr. Cecil Jacobson seemed god-like.

Women who had been unable to conceive for years suddenly were diagnosed as pregnant after undergoing injections of fertility drugs in Jacobson's suburban clinic in Vienna, Va. Couples rejoiced and bought baby furniture.

Men with low sperm counts became fathers after Jacobson used their sperm to perform artificial inseminations. Dozens of other couples had children after insemination from Jacobson's supposedly anonymous sperm donors.

Years later, some of Jacobson's patients credit him with making them pregnant when nobody else could. "If it hadn't been for Cecil Jacobson, I wouldn't have a child," said Carol Franda, mother of a 13-year-old son born after other doctors had told her she was infertile.

But Jacobson's treatments brought misery to others. Women suffered mysterious fetal deaths, in some cases several times, under Jacobson's care. Other doctors told them they never had been pregnant at all.

One man who believed his wife had been artificially inseminated with his own sperm recently learned that Jacobson was the biological father of his daughter. And other parents who had benefited from Jacobson's artificial insemination program learned recently, years after their children were born, that the sperm was not from anonymous medical and seminary students, as Jacobson often told them. It was from him.

The government alleges that Jacobson, whose federal trial opened Monday in Alexandria, Va., used his own sperm in up to 75 artificial inseminations, telling couples the sperm was from anonymous donors selected to their specifications. The 53-count fraud and perjury indictment says that Jacobson operated the "bogus donor program" from the late 1970s to the late '80s, obtaining money and property from patients on false and fraudulent pretenses.

The government also charges that Jacobson generated more profits through his "bogus pregnancy" program, luring women to his clinic for injections, pregnancy tests and ultrasound examinations that sometimes cost more than $5,000, even when they were not pregnant.

On Tuesday, one of those women testified at his trial that she was "very excited" when Jacobson told her she was pregnant.

Christine Maimone said she was treated by Jacobson for five months in 1987. She said that without examining her "he said all I needed was some (hormone) shots to get me pregnant."

The doctor did not warn her that the hormone shots could create a false positive result of her pregnancy test, Maimone said under questioning from prosecutor Randy Bellows.

Maimone, who had suffered a previous miscarriage, said that after a month of hormone treatments, Jacobson performed a pregnancy test and said the result was positive.

But Dr. John Doppelheuer, an obstetrician, testified earlier Tuesday that he had examined Maimone later and had found no pregnancy.

He said he also had examined another of Jacobson's patients, Deborah Gregory, and had determined she was not pregnant, although Jacobson had led her to believe she was.

Jacobson had given Gregory hormones that made her bloated and had created a false positive on pregnancy tests, prosecutor Bellows alleged.

Gregory testified Tuesday that Jacobson had lied to her when he convinced her three times that she was pregnant and that the first two had miscarried. "I have not had a child," Gregory sobbed. "And Dr. Jacobson took valuable time and energy away from me that might have allowed me to have a child."

She said she received a $282,021 settlement after filing a suit against Jacobson, but that it did not compensate for her loss.

Other testimony to come during the trial will be that of 11 parents of 15 children, ages 4 to 14, who are proven through blood tests to be Jacobson's offspring.

Jacobson, who has declined to be interviewed, is expected to contend that, while he made missteps in his medical practice, nothing he did was criminal or fraudulent. He since has lost his right to practice medicine following administrative proceedings by the Virginia State Board of Medicine.

He was trained as a geneticist and a general practitioner _ never completing post-graduate training. Nevertheless, he presented himself as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.

"Anyone can set up a fertility clinic," said Michael Katz, a Federal Trade Commission investigator. "All you need is a doctor."

Such concerns have prompted calls for regulation of the industry. One congressional proposal would establish a federal program to help states register in-vitro fertilization clinics and publish their success rates.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.