The documentary “Baby God”, debuting on HBO on Wednesday, December 2 (9:00-10:20 p.m. ET/PT), from first-time director Hannah Olson, is a shocking examination of the work of a Las Vegas fertility specialist and the many women he guided to pregnancy through use of his own sperm, often without their knowledge or consent. The documentary follows his newly-discovered offspring as they grapple with the scope of his misdeeds and the impact that his genes may have on their own identities.
When retired detective Wendi Babst decides to explore her ancestry through home DNA testing, she makes a stunning discovery. The quest to find the truth about her biological father takes her down a rabbit-hole of furtive medical procedures and unsuspecting women… leading to one man: Dr. Quincy Fortier.
Dr. Quincy Fortier opened Women’s Hospital in Las Vegas in the 1960s and practiced obstetrics, gynecology, and fertility medicine for decades. He became known as something of a miracle worker for his ability to help women struggling with fertility, conceive and carry babies to term and was even named the 1991 Nevada Doctor of the Year.
However, with the advent of home DNA kits, alarming truths about his work and motivations have come to light. When Wendi Babst’s commercial DNA kit reveals that she has many half-siblings, she puts her detective skills to work. Her personal investigation leads her to uncover the complex truth about a man who wielded his position of power to further his own genetic legacy. The deeper she delves, the more she comes to wonder whether she and the siblings she knows of are the only ones. After all, Dr. Fortier had assisted hundreds – likely thousands – of couples struggling with difficulty conceiving. A pattern of deceit and ethical abuse emerges that is shocking in its breadth and depth.
Through interviews with Dr. Fortier’s patients, family and newfound offspring, the film turns to the bigger question of identity and genetic imprint. One of the doctor’s biological sons, Brad Gulko, who inherited his father’s medical mind and established a career as a geneticist asserts that “50 percent of a person’s traits are determined by DNA.” This leaves Wendi to wonder, “Do you want to say your father was a monster? And what does that say about you?”
Baby God features intimate and revealing interviews with Dr. Fortier’s children, including Wendi Babst, Brent Leavitt, Mike Otis, Brad Gulko, Michael Cleaver, Jonathan Stensland, Nanette Fortier, Sonia Fortier and Quincy Fortier Jr., as well as former colleagues Dr. Frank Silver and Dr. Harrison Sheld. The documentary also includes interviews with former patients Cathy Holm (mother of Wendi Babst) and Dorothy Otis (mother of Mike Otis).
This film takes us back to a time before sperm banks, when little was understood about DNA and inherited genetic traits. It is a probing inquiry into the morality of one doctor operating within his own code of ethics and a provocative dive into the essence of personal identity.
Baby God is part of a collection of five enthralling crime-focused documentary films that premiere on Wednesdays beginning November 18. Each title goes beyond the sensational headlines to explore the human toll on all sides of a crime and delves deep into the internal and external worlds of the perpetrators, victims, and survivors. The anthology includes Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney’s profile of a pioneering forensic psychiatrist who has studied some of the most notorious serial killers in Crazy, Not Insane (Nov. 18); an unsolved airplane hijacking in The Mystery of DB Cooper (Nov. 25), the haunting tale of an attempted murder by a religious snake handler in Alabama Snake (Dec. 9), and the search for justice in the aftermath of a bishop and human rights activist’s murder in Guatemala in The Art of Political Murder (Dec. 16).