Surrogate twins in no-mans land

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Sumitra Deb Roy, TNN, Jul 21, 2010, 03.43am IST
MUMBAI: Two representatives from the Norwegian embassy in Delhi are making enquiries about Andras Bells surrogacy procedure in a Mumbai clinic. 

We provided all the relevant documents and two to three informed consent papers that she had signed, said medical director of Bandras Rotunda Clinic Dr Gautam Allahabadia. He added that the clinic had done nothing illegal or unethical.

Embryo adoption is a well-accepted choice, and probably the only option for women who are unable to conceive naturally, said Allahabadia, one of the key members who helped frame the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) draft bill guidelines. But the guidelinesasking fertility clinics to ensure that international clients had the approval of their respective consulates to avoid visa problems for their offspringwere framed only this year, months after Bell commissioned the surrogacy. 

When TOI contacted the Norwegian embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday, they refused to comment on the issue. We are working on this case, was all an official was willing to say. Bell, too, who is in Mumbai with the babies refused to talk to TOI. The Norwegian delegates also visited L H Hiranandani Hospital at Powai where the twins were born. The hospital authorities chose not to comment on the issue on the grounds that that their role was restricted to delivering the twins. 

Bells children are virtually in no mans land, but the greater ethical debate is why she commissioned surrogacy when she could have just adopted a child. One reason could be that she wanted to avoid the stringent adoption laws and believed that surrogacy was an easier path, said an IVF expert. According to Allahabadia, as far as he can recall, this is the first time a Norwegian citizen has come under her countrys scanner. He said that a friend of Bell had also commissioned a surrogacy in India and returned to her country with the child, without a hitch. I always insist that my clients be updated on their countrys laws, said Allahabadia. While it is not banned in Norway, the laws limit the use of reproductive technologies in connection with surrogacy. 

The two Norwegian delegates, who said that the boys may not be given citizenship, mentioned that they were open to the idea of helping Bell adopt the twins provided the surrogate was named as their mother in the birth certificate. They wanted the surrogate to be named so that Bell could adopt them from her. But the ICMR guidelines clearly states that only the clients name be listed as a parent in the birth certificate, said Allahabadia. The Indian surrogate cannot be named on the certificate. 

The fate of the two boys is not known: the chances of them being listed for adoption are very high. There is no way the children can be granted citizenship as per the Indian laws. It will be difficult for Bell to prove that she is their mother in any court of law, said legal expert Amit Karkhanis. Worse, the children could end up for adoption. 

Last heard, with no alternative in sight, Bell has already begun the adoption procedure. 

sumitra.roy@timesgroup.com