Monday, March 9, 2015

Visit to Canberra Fertility Clinic

In a jam packed trip to Canberra last week for the surrogacy roundtable, I managed to cram in a visit to the Canberra Fertility Clinic, courtesy of Dr Martyn Stafford-Bell.

Dr Stafford-Bell had earlier given powerful evidence to the surrogacy roundtable about how in Australia we have a positive experience for surrogacy, and we should change the laws to enable Australian women to be compensated for surrogacy, when everyone else in the process is paid, including doctors, counsellors and lawyers. Why shouldn't the person at the centre of the process be paid, and properly compensated for her efforts?

Canberra Fertility Clinic are one of the pioneers of surrogacy in Australia, putting in place procedures, such as an Ethics Committee, mandatory counselling and legal advice, to make sure that the process is thorough and a positive experience.

I talked with staff about various surrogacy and fertility law issues, and then had the opportunity to tour the lab.

I was amazed at the latest technological innovation, which helps keep Australia's IVF labs at the forefront of international developments. Now when the cells are in the incubator, there is above each cell a camera taking shots of the cell every 10 seconds as a form of slow mo. It is then possible to look at the cells as they are dividing and developing. Extraordinary! I thought I was  the luckiest man alive to see such magic. For technicians this is often the job- the mundane, quotidian existence- but for someone who is not witnessing this every day, it is extraordinary to see life itself forming and growing.

When I was at Canberra Fertility Centre, I pondered about how the laws of different States impacted on their business and the lives of those who want to have children:


  • While Canberra Fertility Clinic has acknowledged expertise in surrogacy, it is in effect unable to help intended parents from Victoria (just over 3 hours drive away), SA or WA because the laws of those States deem that the only IVF clinics who can help are the IVF clinics in those States. Nuts! Are we one country or a collection of 19th century independent countries? One country courtesy of the Australian taxpayer through the Medicare system pays for these clinics. One country (largely) through the National Health and Medical Research Council licensing requirements for these clinics sets out their licensing rules, but those who want to have children cannot choose where they can go for IVF treatment. Why isn't there freedom of choice?
  • Twenty or so minutes drive away in NSW, intended parents do not have these restrictions. They can seek medical treatment wherever in the world they like.
  • In the ACT only couples can seek parenthood through surrogacy. Singles are banned. There are no such restrictions in NSW.
  • In the ACT the surrogate must be part of a couple. There cannot be a single surrogate. There are no such restrictions in NSW.
  • In the ACT it is a criminal offence to engage in commercial surrogacy overseas- but in Victoria it is not. 

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