Commercial Surrogacy Industry: A Change Needed to Protect the Babies

Surrogacy-China-Nationalturk-8-440x360Thailand, the Land of Smiles, is known for their inner turmoil and unregulated laws. There are 19 million people, or 29.9% of the population, in poverty. On the streets, you can see kids kowtow on the dirty sidewalks begging for money. Some people, like Pattharamon Janbua, turn to surrogacy for extra money. According to Vichien Shavalit, permanent secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, there are no laws governing surrogacy in Thailand. This allows potential parents to abandon their unwanted-surrogate child. Whatever the story, Thailand should work towards regulating the lucrative commercial surrogacy industry.

The story of Gammy started with 21-year-old Thai food vendor Pattharamon Janbua. She and her husband were barely making ends meet with their 20,000 baht (US $622) monthly salary. They have two children of their own and were in extreme debt. In order to make more money, Pattharamon decided to become a surrogate mother through an agency. The clinic offered her 350,000 baht (US $10,890) to have an Australian couple’s child. Everything was going smoothly until the doctor discovered that one of two fetuses showed abnormalities. The mysterious couple ordered Pattharamon to abort the abnormal fetus, but she refused the request due to her Buddhist beliefs. When the twins were born, the Australian couple took their healthy baby girl home and left their Down syndrome son behind. Pattharamon was left to care for the abandoned child named Gammy. Soon the story of Gammy went viral and donations from all over the world began pouring in to support him. Also, the criticism of his biological parents and the profitable Thai surrogate industry began to flood the media sites.

The most hated couple in Australia was found by the media. David and Wendy Farnell is Gammy’s parents. The media found out about David’s child sex offenses from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The new piece of information prompted child protection authorities to check the couple’s suitability as parents. Gammy’s parents decided to go on Australia’s Nine Network 60 Minutes. David revealed he would have terminated the embryo had they known about the child’s Down syndrome. He said, “No parent wants a son with a disability.” The couple claimed they left with his sister, because they feared the surrogate mother would take her away. The Australian couple’s interview received many negative responses. Mia Freedman posted on Twitter, “The only person who looks genuinely upset and disturbed about Gammy’s welfare is @TaraBrown60 #60mins.” Susie O’Brien, from the Herald Sun, criticized the Farnell couple for giving typical answers to make themselves look good.

The public questions how David and Wendy Farnell were able to take their baby girl, Pipah, back to Australia. David was a convicted pedophile and there was no evidence of a background check being done on him. He stated, “They [pedophile urges] have 100 percent stopped. I don’t have the urge to do anything anymore.” However, up to 50 percent of convicted pedophiles re-offend. For this reason, all surrogate agencies should ask for written proof of clearance from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

The surrogate industry in Thailand remains unregulated. According to the Australian Embassy in Thailand, “There is currently no laws governing surrogacy arrangements in Thailand.” Currently, commercial surrogacy is against the Medical Council of Thailand’s code of conduct. Surrogacy is only permitted between blood relatives. There are exceptions if no suitable surrogate is available. Therefore, many surrogacy clinics have broken Thailand’s weak regulation on surrogacy by providing commercial services. The proof is the 50 Australian couples left in limbo after Thailand officials shut down multiple surrogacy clinics. The broken code of conduct is not a new development in the country.

A new startling story further proves that Thailand’s surrogacy industry has not been regulated. During the unfolding of Gammy’s story, there were six boys and three girls between age six and 12 months found in a Bangkok condominium. 24-year-old Japanese business person Mitsuoki Shigeta is the father of all nine children. The Thai lawyer representing Shigeta told police he is the father of 14 babies and wants his children to take over his business one day. Mariam Kukunashivili, co-founder of New Life Global Network Fertility Center, found it was suspicious that a young person like Shigeta wanted so many children. She questioned him about his motives for fathering so many children, his response was “so that he could have a big family for voting… [and] win an election in Japan.” Kukunashivili refused to serve him further and warned Interpol, the BBC, CNN, and the Japanese embassy. This occurred over a year ago and there are currently more surrogate mothers pregnant with Shigeta’s children. Now, the Thai authorities want him for questioning over human trafficking.

Is commercial surrogacy considered human trafficking? Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” The case of Mitsuoki Shigeta is likely considered human trafficking. The 24-year-old wants to use his children for power instead of love. Kukunashvili’s staff mentioned he showed possible signs of mental imbalance. The combination of human trafficking and having unstable parent(s) should trigger Thailand lawmakers to produce stronger laws regulating the surrogate industry.

Thailand needs to change their surrogacy laws. Currently, Thai surrogacy clinics treat the industry as a business. Many clinics are aware that they offer very cheap surrogacy services compared to other countries. Dr. Wiwat charges 760,000 baht (US $22,000) for his Thai surrogate program. In comparison, the average cost in the United States is $100,000 to $150,000. The price difference is dramatic. This makes the overseas surrogacy programs very tempting for couples who wish to have their own child. Therefore allowing clinics to take advantage of the couple’s vulnerability and the surrogate mother’s desperation for money. The Thai officials need to regulate the gray areas of surrogacy for the sake of the unborn child.

The unborn fetus is a living being and not a trade item. An official needs to do a thorough background check on the surrogacy agency, potential parents, and surrogate mother. Also, a written contract is necessary for potential children born with birth defects. I do recognize that in a normal pregnancy, parents do have the choice of aborting their children. The public should not chastise the Farnell couple for wanting to abort Gammy while he was in the womb. Aedin Collins, a mother of a Down syndrome daughter, wrote down that if Wendy had the twins herself. The public would not have cared if she aborted the abnormal fetus.

There are couples who are willing to do anything to have their own child. For 39-year-old Australian Kylie Young and her 40-year-old husband, Cameron, having their twins through a Thai surrogate was a blessing. They underwent eight years of in vitro fertilization and two attempts of surrogacy through a friend. Both of the methods failed to produce a child. They flew to Thailand and spend $60,000 to have their dream baby. All the efforts was worth it according to Kylie. I believe it is not wrong to want to have your own child. This is natural for some couples. However, I think potential couples need to be more than willing to undergo stringent rules and regulation for the safety of all surrogate babies. The important aspect is to prevent any unwanted child from being left-behind.

Thailand has a lot of work to do in the surrogacy industry. The officials are sweeping out all the clinics involved. However, they should allow the potential couples to take their children home. Many are waiting anxiously for any updated news. I hope the mistakes from one couple and one strange man will not ruin the dreams of many other potential parents. This is why I highly believe there must better laws controlling the surrogacy industry.


2 Comments to “Commercial Surrogacy Industry: A Change Needed to Protect the Babies”

  1. I am for sure for surrogacy and all reproductive treatments. I suffer from infertility. And I know about it not by hearsay. But my opinion is that surrogacy in such countries as Mexico, Thailand and India should be strictly banned. Believe me there are a lot of another option but not those countries. You cannot imagine how they can damage your life. I can just share my infertility story. I have a great experience in this sphere. When I was 28 years old I went through a serious surgery during which doctors had to dissect my ovaries out. Medical workers warned me of the consequences in future, in particular infertility. I had no choice in the matter because we did not think about fertility at that moment but how to save my life. Being 30 years old my husband and I gave thought to child. Having known my diagnosis we understood that I can bear a child only with the help of donor eggs and IVF program. Therefore, we gave a second thought to reproductive medical programs. We studied all information and chose the country where we can take advantage of ART. Of course donation as surrogacy is not legal in many European countries. That’s why we decided to consider India. That country is seemed to be very attractive for infertility treatment. India is one of the most popular among such countries. Price for donation program is rather handsome. In addition we wanted to see tourist India. my husband and I packed our bags and flew to South Asia. We chose Akanksha reproductive medicine clinic that is in Anand city. There we were met by a friendly, pleasant woman, clinic director. She told us that all their donors are faith worthy. None of them smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs. Medical program takes place under doctors’ control and in accordance with all norms. Be that as it may, but all donors there are of Hindu race. We have nothing against people of other nationalities. But still we wanted child to be like us, as far as possible in this case. We have taken note of the Indian clinic. But if to be honest we had another reasons not to choose Indian clinic. You are completely right. I met some couples, who told me some horrible stories. I don’t want to judge and tell that India is a bad choice for surrogacy. But I am sure that couples should be serious and careful making a choice. This problem is not about money. Of course prices are very attractive. But some legends about India are not without a purpose. As other couples said, it is not truth that donors and surrogates are checked in a proper way. Most of them have infections, which they transfer to the unborn child. Donors also can have diseases and infections. Some of them can have genetic mutations which affect the child. Moreover if consider surrogate mothers, they don’t live in a good condition. They are very poor and don’t spend money for needed food and vitamins. Very often in India they give birth to ill children. I don’t know how much it is true. But I am not so risky. We decided to look for another one. Then I considered Mexico. That was not so far away so it suits me more. Together with my husband we decided to go and visit some clinics we chose. This journey was a big surprise for us. Do you know that in the state of Tabasco the surrogacy program is not only for traditional families, but also for homosexuals, the carriers of the AIDS virus/HIV and patients with viral hepatitis. Yes, this is Mexico. Surrogate mothers who are in the program, unfortunately, are not always checked properly. Not in all cases, they undergo a medical examination and testing. It entails a variety of diseases, malformations in the unborn child, complications with GS/childbirth, and much more. Any legally working and self-respecting clinic will never allow such violations. For me it is completely unacceptable! We went away from that country without any results. I was so upset. I dropped my hand. I need more time to settle all the information I have. We spent some money for travel in Mexico and it was our big mistake. So we continued our searching. Spain, “Dexeus-Salud de la mujer” clinic in Barcelona was a second enter we opted for. Visiting Spanish center we were impressed with the high level of organization and services quality. Having got to know all programs’ proposals and conditions we signed the contract. After medical examinations (tests, ultrasound and ***** analysis) we have chosen a suitable donor and began stimulation. I took hormonal drugs during more than a month. Program was conducted with the use of frozen oocytes. Embryo transfer did not last long but was rather painful. Unfortunately, the result was negative – I was not pregnant. Doctors explained that it happens so because not all are lucky to become pregnant on the first try. As a result, they twisted our arm and we agreed for another two IVF attempts in their clinic. It should be noted that during this time we have spent a lot of money. We had to pay separately for each IVF attempt. In addition, expenses for accommodation, meal, transfer, some medicines and flight was also shouldered as a burden. But it is not the most important thing, because our dream was so long-awaited child. After three attempts in Spain we have not reached our goal. After we came back home we talked to those who also went through donation program. In addition we studied information about eggs cryopreservation and realized that the problem was just in freeze. Process of cryopreservation of genetic material adversely affects its quality. That’s why very often the result is negative. Having already some experience and being taught from own mistakes we continued our search for the ideal clinic. Russia was our next attempt to find happiness. In the Russian Federation doctors use fresh eggs and argue that ” you will not go back home without successful pregnancy”. Russia was a distant and unknown country for us. Rumors of its underdevelopment and poor service walked over Internet networks and forums. Nevertheless we decided to take a chance. Level of service fades in comparison with possible parenthood. Having arrived in St. Petersburg, “AVA-Peter” reproductive medicine clinic, we did not see high European standards. But it was quite good. Our doctor, obstetrician-gynecologist Stambulova Olga, listened to our history. She studied all medical records, conducted a number of tests and said: “Do not worry my dear, we will try our best. Everything will be ok!” We man up, psyched us up for success and started new treatment in Russia. Egg donor and I were stimulated in order to synchronize our menstrual cycles. Again and again I took hormonal drugs. I felt bad but had a firm belief in good result. After embryos transfer my husband prayed with bated breath. But … that attempt was not successful as well. We were a bit disappointed and downhearted. All these torments, clinics in different countries and numerous failed attempts had been lasting for ten years. During this time I had took an incredible amount of hormonal medicines. I went through a lot of medical tests. And, frankly speaking, I was tired mentally and physically. And one day we saw an advertising of reproductive medicine clinic BioTexCom. Centre offered unimaginable conditions and 100% guarantee of success. Medical package includes meeting at the airport, transfer, accommodation, meal and medical program with a certain number of attempts. All these are included in a fixed sum for the program. We paid not a penny more. Weighing all the “pros” and “cons” my husband said me: “I love you and want to raise our own children. So I’m with you and together we will go through all difficulties”. So we went to Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Center for human reproduction BioTexCom. We felt that everything will turn out good just having left the airport. We were met by a clinic’s driver –friendly, polite man stood with a sign where our surname was written. He helped us with the luggage and conducted to the car. When he brought us to the clinic a pretty lady met us on the doorstep. She charted with us before our arrival and was our manager-translator during the program. She led us to the clinic. She offered coffee and we got to know each other better. She spoke English very well and we had no problems communicating. Then we visited a doctor, Elena Mozgova. She talked to us and conducted ultrasound investigation. The doctor told me that they conduct programs using exclusively fresh oocytes, apply best practices and have a high deliverable. She added that we were not the first ones in BioTexCom clinic who came after unsuccessful attempts made abroad. Further there were a standard procedure of stimulation, which I already knew by heart and embryo transfer. In Ukraine, during preparation for the program, I took such medicines as Progesterone, Oksiprogesteron, Proginova, Utrozhestan and various vitamin complexes. It is important to take into account the fact that all medicines were given to me in the clinic. I did not pay extra for them. In BioTexCom center doctors calculate the perfect day for transferring. They use the highest quality biological material. Well, let alone all these details, as result tells louder than words. After the first attempt I finally got pregnant! We were as happy as a pig in mud! We could hardly believe that our dream came true. I was pregnant and we were waiting for our long-awaited child. Yes, Ukraine is not a country with European level, but people there are very kind and friendly. And doctors of BioTexCom are really professionals. And sometimes work wonders using modern technologies and unique techniques.

  2. Surrogacy is the perfect solution for those who want to become parents, but are struggling with infertility or other issues which prevent them from accomplishing their dream. Surrogacy allows you to be genetically linked to your child, you will decide who will be the surrogate mother, you will be involved in the entire process beginning with the insemination to the moment of birth, you will gave an experienced team next to you to help you throughout the entire process.

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