Some of the adoptees, now in their 50s and 60s, are trying again to find blood relatives via fresh DNA testing. That may be their only way of confirming biological links because they have no records of their natural parents, and the doctor died decades ago.
The adoptees, who sometimes call themselves "Hicks babies," arranged for Fairfield, Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center to conduct free cheek-swab sampling this Saturday at a motel in Ducktown, Tennessee, near McCaysville. A half-dozen or more adoptees are giving samples, and they hope potential relatives from the area participate, too.
Here are five things to know:
THERE ARE BELIEVED TO BE HUNDREDS OF ADOPTEES FROM HICKS' CLINIC WHO ENDED UP IN VARIOUS STATES. A local probate judge helping a woman search for her birth parents in the late 1990s found records of more than 200 questionable births in roughly a 12-year span. She concluded there was no logical explanation for why so many mothers were listed out-of-state.
SOME ADOPTEES HAD DNA TESTING DONE WHEN THAT DISCOVERY WAS MADE. A few connected with biological relatives through the genetic testing, the resulting publicity and media coverage, or a combination. Others believe the samples they gave were never run for comparison.
IMPROVEMENTS IN DNA TESTING MIGHT LEAD TO MORE ANSWERS NOW. DNA Diagnostics Center will compare samples if there are indications of a possible match between the people who gave them, and the type of testing may depend on the suspected relationship. For example, mitochondrial testing could establish a maternal link, said Dr. Michael Baird, the company's chief science officer.
THE ADOPTEES WORRY THEY'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO CONNECT WITH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS OR SIBLINGS. The adoptees are at a time of life where they're reflecting on their lives and also running into more health concerns without knowing their family medical histories. Paul Payne, an adoptee living in Hixson, Tennessee, says some of them were struck by the realization that their parents are getting up in age or may already have died. That was the motivation for organizing the DNA sample collection in Ducktown this weekend.
HICKS' LEGACY REMAINS A SENSITIVE SUBJECT IN MCCAYSVILLE. Did he sell black-market babies and profit? Was he just trying to help loving couples who wanted children or desperate young or unwed mothers with nowhere else to turn? His record included a drug-selling conviction and an illegal abortion charge, but locals took a positive view of the man, defending him as a good doctor who helped his community.