6 August 2014

Virtus Health calls for a review of the timing of contractual surrogacy in Australia

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Melbourne IVF

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 finalised before the birth of the child.  This creates great uncertainty for all participants in the surrogacy process,” said Dr Lyndon Hale, Medical Director Melbourne IVF.

“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.  Melbourne IVF has facilitated approximately 25 cases of surrogacy in VIC in the past 12 months, including four births and four current pregnancies.  In doing this, we have a number of pre-conditions that we insist on before we take on a surrogacy case.

  1. The surrogate must be older than 25 and younger than the age of natural menopause (52 years of age).  This may be increased slightly to 55 in the unique situation of a gestational surrogate who is the mother-in-law of the intended parent.
  2. The surrogate must have already given birth to a child of her own.
  3. Medical review – the intending parents (or individual) and surrogate attend a consultation with a fertility specialist.
  4. Independent assessment – the surrogate and the intending parents may need independent obstetric and psychiatric assessments.
  5. Counselling – all parties to the surrogacy arrangement are required to participate in comprehensive counselling. This will include counselling with clinic counsellors and an independent psychologist.
  6. Independent legal advice – we ask for a certificate confirming both parties have been advised on their rights and obligations.
  7. Review committee – a clinic’s ethics committee or patient review panel will review all relevant information and approve the surrogacy arrangement to proceed.
  8. IVF treatment cycle – if the intending parent is using her own eggs, they will be collected after an IVF treatment cycle and fertilised with her partner’s (or donor) sperm. The embryo will then be transferred into the surrogate.
  9. Ongoing pregnancy care – once pregnancy is confirmed, our counsellor and surrogacy team will continue to provide support throughout the duration of the pregnancy.
  10. Birth – the baby is deemed to be the child of the surrogate until the intending parents’ parentage order takes legal effect, under each state’s Surrogacy laws.

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 years, 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.

Read more about Melbourne IVF Surrogacy Programme 

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