Bioethics Blogs

Surrogate Mother Cares for Baby Abandoned Because of Down Syndrome

Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua holds baby Gammy
Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua holds baby Gammy

The story of baby Gammy and his “surrogate” mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, hit headlines around the world last week. Six-month-old Gammy, born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition, was conceived as a result of a commercial surrogacy arrangement between Chanbua, a Thai national, and an unknown Australian couple who abandoned him at birth.

Chanbua, a 21-year-old mother of two other children, was offered 350,000 baht (approximately US $11,000) to be a surrogate. She told an Australian ABC reporter that her family was struggling to pay off debts when she and her husband agreed to the arrangement:

The money that was offered was a lot for me. In my mind, with that money, one, we can educate my children, we can repay our debt.

When she became pregnant with twins, Chanbua was promised an additional 70,000 baht (approximately US $2000).  Then, at four months into the pregnancy, doctors discovered that one of the babies had Down syndrome.

According to reports, the Australian commissioning couple (the genetic parents of the children) said they did not want a baby with Down syndrome.  “They told me to have an abortion but I didn’t agree because I am afraid of sin,” Chanbua reports.

An abortion would have been illegal under Thai law unless the mother’s health was at risk.

On the birth of the children, Chanbua was paid the original amount, but not the extra money. The Australian couple took Gammy’s twin sister home with them, and left Chanbua and her family to care for Gammy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.