I digress from my discussion in progress to comment on this item from today’s news. This is indeed surrogacy gone bad but not, I suspect, in the manner that most people think about.
It appears that SurroGenesis, a for-profit web-promoted, globally marketed surrogacy agency, has taken the money and run. (I’m astonished to find that the website it still up and running. I imagine it won’t be for long.) SurroGenesis is one of a number (does anyone have any idea how many?) of for-profit surrogacy agencies that essentially act as a brokers and facilitators. They locate surrogates and intended parents, as well as egg donors. They connect them up with each other and, at least ostensibly, deal with a host of details. Perhaps most important for the moment, they hold the money that is to be paid the surrogate.
Except, of course, in this case they didn’t hold the money. They took it. Perhaps as much as two million dollars all told. For some couples this means they’ve paid SurroGenesis and lost their money. That’s bad, of course, but there are a small number of people who find themselves in a much worse position. In at least two instances recounted in the paper, there are women who are pregnant as surrogates, expecting to be paid and to deliver the children (in both senses of the words) to the intended parents in the not-too-distant future. But now the money that made these transactions work is gone. The intended parents have paid it, but the surrogates have not (and likely never will) receive it.
I’m sure the intended parents still want the children and very likely the surrogates still plan to turn them over. But in the meantime, at least one of the surrogates faces eviction, and other costs loom.
It’s interesting to me to note that the Times story links this to the octuplets mess. It is indeed yet another reason to call for some regulation of the ART/surrogacy industry. But it’s actually quite a different aspect of the problem. Where concern over the octuplets might lead to regulation of access to ART, the concerns here really go to the business end of the operation.
Yet I’m not sure this distinction will be made. It’s easy to lose sight of these finer points in generalized unhappiness about a variety of problems in the ART industry. Thus, the rapidity with which the octuplets are connected up to this problem do cause me some concern.
And yet there is a common thread, in my view. Both problems could be generated by the desire for profit. Not so much Nadya Suleman’s desire as that of her fertility doctor, Michael Kamrava. And here, far more clearly, the greed of whoever was behind SurroGensis.
All of this makes me think about a long-ago discussion of altruistic vs. commercial surrogacy. (I’ve linked to sort of a random place in the middle. There’s a lot back there and I haven’t reread it quite a while.) I wonder how much of the problem is the trouble in the world of ART is caused by the lure of profit. Obviously it contributes to (but is not the sole cause of) the rush towards globalization. (People also travel to other countries to gain access to technologies that are not available to them at home.) And it does lead people to act terribly irresponsibly sometimes. Just something to mull.