Saturday, May 20, 2006

Wombs for Rent, Cheap

Wombs for Rent, Cheap - Los Angeles Times: "Wombs for Rent, Cheap. Surrogate mothers in India are a bargain for foreigners, and the women reap a bonanza. But some observers say they pay a price."
While I feel that surrogacy is a very ethical treatment option for selected couples ( those where the uterus is irreperably damaged; or has been removed), it worries me that it is now being overused and misused. Many couples who have failed repeated IVF cycles come to the ( wrong) conclusion that the uterus is defective because it is "rejecting the embryos", which is why they opt for surrogacy. Since this is such a lucrative treatment option ( for the agency, the doctor, and the lawyer), many agencies have now sprung up which are willing to fulfill this demand, whether or not the couple really needs this ! Infertile couples who have failed multiple IVF cycles are emotionally distraught and vulnerable. They are willing to grasp at straws, and jump at this "new" treatment alternative. However, many have unrealistic expectations, and end up wasting a lot of their money. The pregnancy rate in a surrogacy cycle is no better than in an average IVF cycle - about 45%, which means that many of these attempts end in failure. However, many couples naively believe ( and are subtly led to believe) that the treatment is a 100% sure-shot affair !
Since surrogacy can be exorbitantly expensive in the US - over $ 50000 for an attempt, many couples are looking for inexpensive options, and are coming to India for their surrogacy treatment. However, they do not realise that there is no legal protection for surrogacy in India, which means there is no legal mechanism by which they would be able to take their baby back with them to the US. So how do Indian clinics continue to perform surrogacy for overseas patients ? The answer is simple - illegally. Many simply put the genetic mother's name ( instead of the birth mother's) on the birth certificate, so that no questions are asked later. Others misguide patients, and tell them that the contract they sign with the surrogate is binding. Actually, the contract is not even worth the paper it is written on ! Legally, the law only recognises the birth mother in India. The only legal way to take this baby back would be to adopt the baby. However, adoption from India is a long-drawn out complex process which can take 2-3 years. In any case, a "targetted" adoption of a particular baby is impossible - the baby would have to be given to an adoption agency, who would then decide where they baby goes. If everyone knows this, why is surrogacy for overseas couples still being carried out with impunity in India ?
What worries me even more is that this "short cut" will allow unethical doctors to bypass the entire adoption process, and certify an unwanted baby from an unwed mother as being born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement, thus allowing foreigners and NRIs ( non-resident Indians) to adopt these babies without waiting in line or having to go through an adoption agency.

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