Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Catholic Hospitals surrogacy policies

Given the vehement hatred that the Australian Christian Lobby has to any surrogacy, it is somewhat surprising that Catholic Hospitals Australia recognise that surrogacy occurs, and allows for Catholic hospitals to provide for surrogacy births.

The CHA sets out this policy:


Catholic Health Australia has developed a set of principles that can help Catholic hospitals that are asked to respond to requests for surrogate births. 

CHA recommends that a Catholic hospital’s policy in relation to surrogacy should address the following matters: 

Catholic hospitals give recognition to the dignity of pregnant women and unborn children; 
There are different legal requirements of surrogacy by state and territory governments, and there is an obligation for people considering a surrogacy to inform themselves of these obligations; 
Catholic hospitals do not provide direct assistance in surrogacy arrangements; Decisions as to if services can be provided where a surrogacy arrangement is in place will be made on a case-by-case basis. The person or persons within the hospital responsible for considering individual requests should be identified. The role of ethicists in advising hospitals on how they might implement Church teaching in the individual circumstances of different surrogacy arrangements should also be made clear; 
Prioritisation of care is given to birth mothers and their children; 
Decisions in relation to pregnancy management, attendance at the birth and care of the child are those of the birth mother, and a Catholic hospital may not be able to honour an arrangement that a birth mother has made as part of a surrogacy agreement; 
The baby will be discharged from the hospital into the care of the birth mother, and at discharge the mother is legally responsible for the child; 
Staff have the opportunity to make a decision not to participate in a surrogacy arrangement if they hold a conscientious objection; 
Access to pastoral and counselling support is available to birth mothers; 
Consultation with the local bishop shall occur prior to adoption of an organisational policy. 

In Queensland the biggest maternity hospital is the Mater, in Brisbane, with 10,000 births a year. Within the framework of the CHA policy, the Mater has a very sensible, comprehensive policy, consistent with its reputation as an excellent maternity hospital. The policy promotes the bodily autonomy of the surrogate and child, the ability of the surrogate to manage her pregnancy and borth- like any other woman.

The Mater's policy deals with:

  • planning for admission
  • postnatal care
  • baby requiring medical care
  • discharge arrangements and issues
  • psycho-social issues
  • documentation
  • financial issues
The policy states:

"As Mater does not support or assist with procedures relating to achieving conception through surrogacy arrangements, it must consider whether there are sufficient justifiable reasons for each circumstance when a woman seeks admission to Mater for the purpose of giving birth under a surrogacy arrangement. Once Mater has agreed to care for a woman who has entered into a surrogacy arrangement, "the Catholic tradition affirms the special dignity of every women carrying a child in her womb...Catholic healthcare services should support parents and their unborn children throughout their pregnancy and childbirth as an expression of respect for the dignity of every human being."

My first client to go through a surrogacy birth at the Mater was the first there to state openly that the arrangement was surrogacy. Being a religious hospital, I was a tad nervous about whether this was a wise choice, despite the excellent reputation of the Mater. The whole process was warm, supportive and welcoming. My clients were the intended parents- husband and wife. The wife's mother was the surrogate. The intended mother was able to stay at the hospital and care for the baby. That was many years ago, just after surrogacy became legal in Queensland.

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