Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Facts About Surrogacy

By Michael Cook

The dismal death of Brooke Verity illustrates the need for longitudinal studies of the long-term outcomes of surrogacy.

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Whether you are pro-this or anti-that, a passionate believer in human dignity or an ultra-rational utilitarian, your bioethics always has to begin with the facts. While knowledge of consequences is only part of ethical decision-making, it is an essential part.

Surrogacy is one issue in which the public gets only a very partial vision of the consequences. Normally the media focuses on the joy of the commissioning parents, while the surrogate mother remains anonymous and her story untold. But her life after surrogacy is part of the consequences as well.

Nowhere was this more marked than in India, where some clinics had dormitories for surrogate mothers in varying stages of pregnancy. The clinics assured Western journalists that they were happy and detached. And since there was an almost impenetrable language barrier between the journalists and the women, it was practically impossible to check these bland reassurances. Now India has closed the door to international surrogacy, so the stories have ceased.

But around the world surrogacy is increasing, not decreasing, as older women and gay couples try to have children. Because it is legal in the United States, many parents are drawn there. However, the recent death of a surrogate mother in the state of Kentucky unveiled hazards that exist even in the world’s richest nation.

For a brief moment in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.