Thailand Surrogacy Drama: What Do You Think?

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We’ve been hearing a lot about the surrogacy controversy in Thailand, and the confusion boils down to a lot of miscommunication and finger pointing. Where do things stand now? The surrogate mother,  Pattharamon Chanbua, 21, of Thailand, still has the sick baby boy. The biological parents, David and Wendy Farnell of Bunbury, Australia, still have the baby girl. The biggest takeaway: if you are using a surrogate, make sure you have a contract, and go over the details of different scenarios carefully.

Some background: The Australian couple went through a Thai surrogacy clinic, the name of which has not been released, and was connected with Chanbua. Chanbua became pregnant with the couple’s biological twins, who were born two months premature. A baby girl was born healthy, and a baby boy, Gammy, was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart condition. Now, at seven months old, he has a lung infection. The couple went home to Australia with the girl, but the boy was left behind with Chanbua.

The facts essentially end there.

The rest becomes a lot of he-said-she-said.

According to the surrogate: Chanbua  says she was paid 300,000 baht ($9,300) to carry the babies. She claims her doctors, the surrogacy agency and the baby’s parents knew Gammy had Down Syndrome since she was four months pregnant. But she didn’t even know until she was seventh months along, when the agency told her the parents were requesting an abortion, which she refused on religious grounds (she’s Buddhist).

According to the agency: A manager who no longer works for the agency, identified as Joy, told Reuters that the agency told the Australian couple about the baby’s condition first because they “believed that the decision should be made by the biological parents.”

According to the parents: More specifically, according to a friend of the Farnells, who spoke to the local newspaper the Bunbury Mail, they never requested an abortion. And they only left for Australia without the baby boy because he was “very sick when he was born and [they] were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best to live and to say goodbye.”  The surrogate insisted on keeping Gammy to give him a Thai funeral. The source adds that Chanbua gave birth at a different, smaller hospital instead of the larger international one agreed upon, which made the whole surrogacy agreement void.

To make matters worse, the whole situation was clouded by a lack of communication: The Farnells and Chanbua couldn’t speak the same language. Oh, and a military coup was going on in Thailand at the time, so getting around wasn’t easy.

Custody issues are swirling too. Currently, Chanbua is taking care of Gammy, in addition to her two other children. After she voiced concerns about being able to take care of him, an online campaign raised over $220,000. Based on Australian law, while it is legal to seek surrogacy abroad, the surrogate is actually the legal parent. So Gammy can stay with her.

Will the baby girl stay with the Farnells? Now that the local media has uncovered reports that David Farnell served time for molesting two girls under age 10 in the 1990s, it’s unclear.

One thing is for sure though, Thailand is going to start rethinking its policy on commercial surrogacy. Currently, there are no laws governing it at all, but it is against the Medical Council of Thailand’s code of conduct. The code of conduct states that surrogacy is permitted if the couple uses blood relatives as surrogates. But exceptions can be made if no surrogate is available. If it’s determined that the agency violated surrogacy rules, it will face a fine of about 620 US dollars.

Thai authorities said they will be conducting a nationwide inspection of clinics offering surrogacy services.

Over in Australia, a push is being made to overhaul surrogacy laws, so couples don’t have to go abroad to find a candidate.

What a mess. Bumpies, tell us what you think.

Plus, more from The Bump:

The Runaway Surrogate

 Why I Became a Surrogate

When To Start Worrying About Fertility Issues