Dr. Duru Shah
Surrogacy first got popular when celebrates like Shahrukh Khan and Amir Khan spoke of their personal experience with surrogacy.
But recently there has been a raging controversy in the media on the subject of Surrogacy. This is because the Bill to formalize its legality, will soon be introduced in the Parliament. A few people believe that surrogacy is ethical; whist many don’t understand what it really is. These are the people who get confused and sway like a pendulum, depending on what they read or hear about it. As a gynecologist working in this field, I would like to give you my point of view.
Surrogacy is a technique utilized by IVF experts to assist couples to have their own biological children with the assistance of other women who have the capability to bear children. This is the only way we can help women who are born without a uterus, or have untreatable uterine disease, or whose uterii has been removed for medical reasons, or those women who have medical reasons for not carrying a pregnancy. If science has the possibility to help these unfortunate women, is it not ethical to provide them with such assistance.
Surrogacy is termed altruistic when a dear friend or relative is willing to carry the pregnancy on behalf of the concerned woman, and without any commercial benefits to herself. Whilst commercial surrogacy is one where an unrelated woman is willing to carry the patient’s baby and hand over the baby after the delivery for a fee.
In some countries surrogacy is legal, whilst in some it is banned, both for legal and ethical reasons. The recent success with uterine transplantation in carrying pregnancies to term may replace surrogacy in future, once uterine transplantation is available to one and all, which may realistically take another 10 years! Till then surrogacy will be the mainstay of helping such women to have their own biological children.
In India,surrogacy is legal and was initially available to all. As IVF centers with excellent medical expertise matching International Standardsare available in India, with the entire treatment at a lower cost, associated with english speaking doctors, surrogacy became popular with the international clientele. This is a similar situation with international patients coming to India for various medical treatments, through medical tourism.
Thus surrogacy, which is actually a medical treatment, became extremely popular in India and the business world looked at it as a huge industry because of the allied services which were required and their gain through such services. Services obtained through the travel industry, hotel industry, hospitals, surrogacy homes, etc. got involved through Agencies which promoted surrogacy abroad. Surrogates earned money for their children’s education and bought better homes for themselves, IVF experts collected their professional fees, but it was the Agencies who got the maximum financial gains. With the lure of money, many illegal and unethical practices came into play, mainly because this medical treatment with so many ramifications does not have any MonitoringAgency to overlook assisted reproduction, just as it occurs in other countries.
Whether Surrogacy is ethical or unethical is an issue which is debatable, depending on whom you speak to and whose viewpoints are stronger, the juryIs still out there on this issue. Are surrogates really exploited by foreign clients? I don’t think so, because all foreign clients of mine have done something more for their surrogates who have assisted them in bringing so much joy to their lives. Our International patients respect them, they love them for what they have done for them and besides paying their dues as per their contracts with the surrogates, they have given them much more than they asked for, mainlytowards the education of their children.
If you talk to surrogates who have been engaged at ethical centers, you will find that they all feel good about participating in the surrogacy program, because it gives them a better status at their homes, they are well cared for during their pregnancies like never before and deliver in hospitalswhich they could never have afforded before, and they envisage a better future for their children for the efforts they have put in.
Everyone has their viewpoint, and this is mine!