Researchers have warned that there is no guidance or legislation on what hospitals should do when they are discharging babies born to surrogate mothers.
Consultant obstetricians who reviewed current practice in UK hospitals said the lack of rules put mothers and children at risk. Celia Burrell, consultant obstetrician at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital NHS Trust said: “We are calling for additional legislation and guidelines to prevent women and babies being exploited, provide safeguards for children and guide professionals.
The review published in the The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist said that staff should consult hospital lawyers and risk management teams before taking a decision to discharge a baby separately from the mother who gave birth to the child. Researchers said they expected the number to increase, following laws introduced in 2010 which give same sex and unmarried couples the same legal rights as married hetrosexual couples to apply for parental orders, after a child is born.
Dr Burrell said current laws were “precarious”, because legislation varies so much around the world. Last month, a new precedent was set in the Republic of Ireland when the genetic mother was put on the child’s birth certificate. In 2011, a surrogate mother in the UK won the legal right to keep her child after learning that the would-be parents were violent.
In March, a surrogate mother in the United States fled across the country to give birth and save her child after the parents to be wanted to have the child aborted because disabilities had been found. Researchers said there are currently no UK guidelines providing advice for surrogates, would-be parents or healthcare professionals, nor is data collected to establish how common the practice is.
Researchers said the lack of guidance left healthcare professionals struggling with many ethical and legal dilemmas. Since Britain’s first official surrogate birth, in 1985, laws have limited payments to cover only what is described as “reasonable expenses”, such as loss of income.
Estimates suggest that, since then about 800 children have been born in this country of such arrangements, with “expenses” payments averaging about £15,000. Exact figures are unknown, because many arrangements proceed without any medical or legal input.
In 2011, a British judge allowed a couple to keep their child, despite the fact that they made higher payments to a couple in the United States, where there is no ceiling on amounts. In making the ruling, he went further, saying that the welfare of the child was the paramount consideration, and future cases would be rejected only in the “clearest case of the abuse of public policy”.
Article: 19th April 2013 www.telegraph.co.uk
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