A row has erupted over a couple's attempt to force a surrogate mother to abort their baby - after discovering the child was likely to have Down's Syndrome.
The Canadian couple insisted they wanted to pull out of the surrogacy deal rather than raise the baby.
But the surrogate insisted she wanted to carry the baby to term.
The dispute has raised serious question marks over the legal standing of the increasingly common arrangements.
The surrogate reluctantly agreed to the abortion because under the terms of the deal, the couple would have been absolved of any responsibility of bringing up the child if she gave birth without their blessing.
As she already had two children of her own, she relented because of her family obligations.
The dispute was revealed for the first time by Dr Ken Seethram, who said it raises the possible need for government oversight of financial arrangements between mother and 'commissioning' parents.
He quoted the case, without naming the people involved, during a presentation to the Canadian Society of Fertility and Andrology conference.
He suggested the surrogate needed protection so she could make decisions in a ‘non-coercive’ environment.
But other experts claimed it wasn’t the government’s place to intervene.
‘Should the rules of commerce apply to the creation of children? No, because children get hurt,’ Juliet Guichon of the University of Calgary, told the National Post.
‘It’s kind of like stopping the production line: ‘Oh, oh, there’s a flaw.’ It makes sense in a production scenario, but in reproduction it’s a lot more problematic.’
Professor Guichon speculated that courts likely would not honour a surrogacy contract, drawing instead on family law that would require the biological parents to support the child.
In the disputed case in British Columbia, the surrogate was implanted with an embryo created with the parents’ egg and sperm.
An ultrasound during the first trimester showed the fetus was likely to have trisomy 21, the genetic abnormality that leads to Down syndrome. A further test confirmed the diagnosis.
Dr Seethram said the couple and the surrogate always got along and their disagreement on what to do never became acrimonious or tense.
But he added: ‘They were certainly quite shocked. Obviously, the parents had come on a long journey before commissioning the surrogacy, but all they were thinking about was success.’
A former surrogate insisted the parties should agree on what they would do if defects are discovered during pregnancy and whether they shared the same views on abortion before going ahead with the deal.
In some parts of the U.S., parents can sue a surrogate to recoup their payments if the woman insists on going ahead with a pregnancy against their wishes.
In three other Canadian cases, surrogates are now raising the babies after the commissioning couples got divorced and backed out, said Sally Rhoads, of SurrogacyInCanada.ca.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
From The Daily Mail in the UK:
Posted by BA Haller at 3:03 PM