Monday, 4 August 2014

Basically, people are bastards

Last week I read a story that has been doing the rounds on Down syndrome blogs and boards across the global media. An Australian couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand to carry their twins (apparently at a clinic that's not even licensed) discovered through prenatal screening that one of the babies had Down syndrome. They requested that the woman (who they never met through the entire process) terminate the pregnancy but she refused on the grounds that it was against her culture's beliefs.

When she finally gave birth, they came to Thailand and took home the little girl with a typical number of chromosomes, abandoning the little boy with Down syndrome. The woman who had carried he and his sister (and bears no biological connection to them) has since been caring for the boy as his mother. She comes from a rural part of the country and her poverty is what compelled her to enter into the surrogacy arrangement in the first place. Now the baby boy, called Gammy and loved by his adoptive family, needs cardiac surgery to survive (as about 50% of all babies with Down syndrome do), and the family cannot afford to get him the care he needs. Meanwhile, his biological parents, who went to great lengths to conceive him via IVF, are back in Australia with his sister.

This story enrages and saddens me on so many levels I don't even know what to say. The Australia media, as they are right to do, has emphasised the ethics involved in using the bodies of impoverished women in the developing world, women who very often have few choices in life, as essentially objects to sustain a reproductive industry available to a wealthy few.  

As one half of a couple who struggled with infertility for years and came very close to needing IVF to build our family, I am angered at stories like this. Stories that give a bad name to assisted reproductive technologies which, on the whole, help to bring babies into the world for parents who just long to love and care for a living child. Angered that these stories give any credence to the widely held but mistaken societal belief that IVF exists primarily to furnish rich, self-indulgent couples with designer babies. Angered on behalf of the many wonderful and loving parents I know who had no choice but to rely on such technologies to welcome their precious babies, and who may face stigma as a result of such negative coverage.

And as the mother of a child with Down syndrome? I. can't. even. I should clarify: I pass no judgement against people who consider termination or adoption when they get a diagnosis. While I think it's sad for everyone involved, I understand that sometimes it may be better for people who feel from the outset that they lack the capacity to parent a child with complicated needs.  

But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about self-absorption on an epic scale. We're talking about abandonment. We're talking about treating both the surrogate and the babies she carried - to borrow a term used by one of the experts interviewed in the press - as commodities that you can return if you don't like the fit or the colour.

I don't even know what to say about people such as these. I can't help but think that the real loser in this whole story is the baby girl; she has a twin brother growing up in another country who she may or may not learn about when she's older, and is stuck with those people for parents.

14 comments:

  1. Wow, that is horrific. The world is a sad place sometimes.

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  2. This seems sad to me from every angle you look at it. Even for the biological parents, while it seems like they are most at 'fault' here it sounds like a crummy situation where they tried to acknowledge their limits. Just no good solution all around.

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  3. This story makes me sick. How can those parents have abandoned their child? And continue to do so? So, so horrible and wrong.

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  4. Wow. Shocking - but kind of not shocking too, unfortunately when you consider how selfish people really can be. Everyone involved is losing in some way it seems - so sad.

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  5. That is so awful and sad on so many levels that I don't even know what to say. Yes, people are bastards and that is why we need laws and regulations. Among the things that crossed my mind....the twins were fraternal; I wonder if the agency even told the surrogate they were transferring two (or more??) embryos? It sounds like the couple had a very fuzzy idea of what was actually involved. Also, the couple NEVER MET the surrogate?? Surely that is not common practice in surrogacy? How could anyone be OK with that? It is a shame that many couples may not have a chance to have their baby because of this....on the other hand....this is NO WAY to handle assisted reproduction.

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  6. Yes, horrific but maybe could have been prevented if the agreement with the GC accounted for this possibility. Some people DO wish to terminate and this couple did, but the GC refused. Everyone put in a bad place. Better yet would have been chromosome testing prior to transfer.

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  7. There are so many things wrong with that story... so many flaws in the laws, no concrete contracts apparently, the light it casts on others who utilize fertility treatments or surrogates, and at the end of the day those poor kids. Both of them.

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  8. Yes, it's hard to believe that this possibility wasn't discussed beforehand. After all, the struggles that make IVF necessary tend to make people acutely aware of everything that can go wrong! So I'm still a little shocked when people talk about "designer babies," as if IVF is some lark.

    But this ... this is awful. You've spelled out the implications well, and there's nothing I can add except more dismay.

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  9. This is just so heartbreaking for everyone involved. I can't believe this is the first time a situation like this has arisen with this type of surrogacy, and I shudder to think how it's been handled in a country that clearly has some loose regulations. If anything good can come of this, I hope it results in all parties entering into this type of agreement with clear intentions regarding all possible scenarios. Just sad.

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  10. Shocking, heartbreaking. Just so wrong.

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  11. I'm with AnotherDreamer. This story is heartbreaking for all involved. The surrogacy contract was clearly not concrete and the surrogate is in a situation of extreme disadvantage. That said, the parents should have had the right to choose about terminating the pregnancy and not have that decision forced on them. Still, it's hard to stomach that they abandoned their son. Leaving him behind. And the little girl will one day learn about her brother...,.

    All of it is heartbreaking Sadie. Which illustrates why there needs to be better regulation for this stuff. Hoping that little boy gets the surgery he needs.

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  12. http://www.news.com.au/national/baby-gammys-australian-father-reportedly-jailed-for-indecent-dealing-with-child-under-13/story-fncynjr2-1227013516342
    The story gets worse (if that is possible). The 'dad' has been to jail for sex offences against a minor. The 'mum' is holding a press conference today. Brace yourself for more lies :(

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    1. On a happier note (from the article mentioned by Justine): "Gammy’s picture has been beamed around the world and has prompted donations of more than $230,000 in 13 days to pay for his future in Thailand."

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  13. There are many concerns about the way this surrogacy was carried out, but the fact remains that there were two babies born, both of who need and deserve loving parents. They also deserve to know each other and be siblings. I read a story (I can't remember where) of triplets that were born-- one with Down Syndrome. The parents put that child up for adoption and "kept" the other two. I can't even imagine living with that decision. It breaks my heart. It's so selfish, yet at the same time, these children deserves parents who will love them regardless of their disabilities/abilities.

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