Bioethics News

Professionalise surrogacy, say New Zealand academics

Two New Zealand academics have proposed that surrogacy become a profession like nursing or teaching which is fully integrated into the health system. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Ruth Walker  and Liezl van Zyl, of the University of Waikato, contend that both commercial and altruistic surrogacy have so many potential moral, legal and emotional complications that a complete change in the framework is needed.

Their discussion centres on decisions about whether to abort a surrogate mother’s foetus if there is a substantial abnornamlity. It would be unethical for commissioning parents to request abortion for a minor abnormality like a cleft palate, but in cases of severe abnormality, “abortion would be the morally responsible thing to do”.

Often, however, the intending parents and the surrogate mother quarrel over the fate of the baby. In a commercial model, parents often demand that the baby be aborted, which treats the surrogate as a mere vessel and denies her right to bodily  integrity. In an altruistic model, the intending parents can just walk away if there are problems, leaving the mother with the baby or the decision whether to abort.

What the authors proposed is the creation of a professional cadre of registered surrogates working within a government instrumentality, with set fees and civil servants who can support the mother and parents if there are difficulties. “The professional model emphasizes the ethical dimension of surrogacy,” they believe.

“ … payment should not be tied to the delivery of a healthy infant. Although many critics of commercial surrogacy claim that it is the payment itself that is pernicious, we argue that the flaw lies in the way payment is managed.

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.