Australia’s leading fertility Group - Virtus Health calls for a review of the timing of contractual surrogacy in Australia.
This week’s dreadful story of Gammy, highlights the difficulties involved in surrogacy. As fertility specialists providing support to patients who need to use surrogacy to have their families, we need to be continually aware of these potential difficulties. In particular we must never forget our responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the future child.
“In view of this, we call on the Australian Government and State governments to review the timing of the legal decision-making around surrogacy. At present, the legal arrangements (which differ in each state in Australia) cannot be finalized before the birth of the child. This creates great uncertainty for all participants in the surrogacy process,” said A/Prof Peter Illingworth, Medical Director IVFAustralia.
“A change in legislation to ensure that the legal parentage of the child is resolved from the moment of the child’s birth would provide clarity and certainty for the intending parents, surrogate and most importantly the child,” he explained.
Performing surrogacy to high ethical standards is a complex process. IVFAustralia facilitates approximately 10 cases of surrogacy in NSW each year. In doing this, we have a number of pre-conditions that we insist on before we take on a surrogacy case.
- Surrogacy must be necessary. Surrogacy is only a useful intervention where either it is too dangerous for a woman to carry her pregnancy herself; or there is strong evidence that the uterus is unable to successfully bear a pregnancy
- There must be an intense process of joint counselling to consider all the difficulties and risks that can arise. This enables each participant, either intending parent or surrogate to consider with an independent counsellor and plan ahead for any hurdles that lie ahead.
- There must only ever be one embryo inserted at a time to ensure the safety of the mother and the welfare of the child.
- Every case is overseen by an independent ethics committee that reviews each case to ensure that all necessary steps have been taken to protect the interests of the participants and the welfare of the child.
- Finally, there must be a strong relationship between the intending parents and the surrogate. Strong and loving relationships between the participants enable families to make mutually-agreed decisions about any problems that arise. Surrogacy done in a spirit of love and giving, not cash reward or exploitation, allows many potential difficulties to be overcome.
It is not possible to completely prevent problems that may arise. However, it is also important to consider the bright side of surrogacy. In the past few months, we have been involved in some very moving stories of pregnancies having been successfully achieved by families in very difficult circumstances. This includes women who, due to life-threatening medical conditions had been unable to carry their own pregnancies. They had close friends or relatives who rallied around to help them by acting as a surrogate mother to allow them to have a child in a way that they would, otherwise, have been unable to do.