Calls for clearer surrogacy laws

Posted by Patricia Wakeford on

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Whether or not people agree about the use of surrogates; they must have been as saddened as I was about the recent story of Gammy, a baby born to a surrogate mother in Thailand, which was reported on BBC Radio 4.

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He is now seven months old and was one of twins. The biological parents from Australia apparently took the healthy daughter and left their son as he has Downs Syndrome. However, they say that they were unaware that the surrogate was carrying twins.

This case has raised concerns about the law on surrogacy and a call has been made for an international law that would give some clarity. It would also help protect babies born in a similar situation to Gammy. He requires treatment as he has a cardiac condition which often accompanies Downs Syndrome. Money has been raised to help fund his treatment and the surrogate mother will raise him herself.

It is illegal to pay for surrogacy in Australia so couples have to find a surrogate who is happy to carry the child for no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses. Advocacy group Surrogacy Australia said this "red tape" means many couples choose to go abroad to find a surrogate, with 400 or 500 each year venturing to India, Thailand, the US and other places.

Nicola Scott, a British lawyer specialising in fertility issues, says a lack of regulation leaves the child vulnerable because issues such as termination are not discussed in advance.

She says the answer to the problem is an international treaty similar to the Hague Adoption Convention so that parents know what the situation is from the outset. "Then each country would have its own rules and regulations and the parents, surrogates and children would be protected,"

I am very pleased that Gammy will be looked after and get the medical attention that he needs. If this case results in an international law then Gammy will have helped many other couples and surrogate babies.

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About the Author

Photograph of Patricia Wakeford

Patricia is a Senior Associate, in our Clinical Negligence team, and is also a qualified midwife with many years of experience working in the NHS.

Patricia Wakeford
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