Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Surrogacy in Laos: AVOID!

According to reports, the latest place for intended parents to consider surrogacy is tiny Laos, wedged between Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west and China to the north.

The person who is at the centre of surrogacy in Laos is Dr Pisit from Bangkok- the very same doctor at the centre of the Baby Gammy saga, and the very same doctor who apparently helped the son of a Japanese billionaire to create- at the same time- between 13 and 16 children via surrogacy: what the world's media called the baby farm.

What we have seen from one developing country to another is a few tentative moves towards surrogacy, driven by agents and doctors, followed by an explosion of growth, and then a scandal or two- and then a knee jerk reaction from the government to close it all down. Far better to have regulated the whole process from the beginning, with transparent processes all the way through, independent legal advice and counselling for the surrogate and the intended parents at the beginning, and judicial oversight at the end.

Last year I was asked at a conference that surrogacy happened in Ghana, but that there were no laws, and what should be done. My response was: "Get laws!" Only with adequate laws and their enforcement can there be protection.

While I have seen remarkably successful surrogacies occur in developing countries, I have also seen surrogacy arrangements where everyone (surrogate, intended parents and the baby) have been exploited, and the only people not exploited were the doctors and agents organising the whole deal.

The scandals have included:

  • parents having children who are (unknowingly) not genetically theirs (India and Thailand).
  • parents taking one child and not the other- because it was the "wrong" gender (India).
  • parents discovering that one of their children was not Caucasian but Indian (India).
  • the surrogate keeping one of the twins, because she put her age up illegally, and then fell in love with the idea of having a boy (the Baby Gammy saga- Thailand), the other child ending up in the care of a convicted paedophile and his wife.
  • surrogates being kept in dormitories.
  • surrogates not obtaining independent legal advice.
  • one clinic ensuring that 80% of surrogates have Caesarian sections (India).
  • Nepalese women going to India to be surrogates when they weren't allowed to be surrogates at home.
  • Indian women going to Nepal to be surrogates.
  • A surrogate being implanted with 6 embryos (India).
  • Colombian women being trafficked to Mexico for foreign intended parents.
  • Filipino women allegedly being trafficked to Cambodia for surrogacy there.
  • Intended parents being stuck and not being able to get their babies home easily (India, Nepal, Thailand, Mexico, Cambodia).
So what have we seen:

  • India- up to a billion dollar industry, restricted in 2012, then again in 2014, closed in 2015
  • Thailand- closed in 2014
  • Nepal- closed in 2015
  • Mexico- closed in 2015
  • Cambodia- closed in 2016
Laos is next. Without adequate laws in place, another scandal will hit there. In each of the places- what has been obvious is that there has been a lack of proper laws to adequately regulate surrogacy. In the words of Australian Chief Judge John Pascoe, in many developing countries "it's the Wild West" where anything goes.

Until there are laws in place to adequately regulate the IVF industry, agents and surrogacy generally, anyone who goes to Laos for surrogacy is really asking for trouble.

There are other places that are far less risky. My message: avoid, avoid, avoid.

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