A pregnant surrogate has died at hospital in New Delhi, while a new surrogacy law awaits approval by the Indian Parliament.
The 42-year-old was 17 weeks pregnant with twins when she died. An investigation discovered that she had a history of multiple illnesses including tuberculosis, hydrocephalus and depression, and that the proper process for medical screening had not been followed before she became pregnant. She would not have been eligible to act as a surrogate if guidelines had been followed.
Dr Sudhir Gupta, professor and head of forensic sciences at All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in New Delhi (AIIMS) – the hospital where the surrogate died – told the Times of India: 'This case is reflective of the lack of regulation of commercial surrogacy in the country and its impact on the lives of poor women staking their lives for money.'
Doctors at AIIMS have now published a paper calling for the urgent imposition of stricter laws surrounding surrogacy to prevent this type of case happening again. Their paper 'Regulation of Surrogacy in India: Need of the Hour', highlights the dangers to both surrogates and commissioning parents who pursue surrogacy in India, and claims that: 'Absence of strict regulating law has been used by the mediators and touts to financially exploit both intending couples as well as poor surrogates.'
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 is currently working its way through the Indian Parliament. Under the proposed legislation, new measures would be put in place to protect surrogates and commissioning parents. Surrogacy would only be available to infertile 'close relatives' of the surrogate, and they must be Indian citizens. There will also be restrictions in respect of the parties' ages, marital status, health and residence, and all forms of commercial surrogacy would be banned.
The bill passed through Lok Sabha (India's lower House of Parliament) in August, and it is now awaiting approval by Rajya Sabha, India's upper house, before it becomes law.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Times of India that the new legislation is needed urgently: 'A rough estimate shows that there are 2000-3000 surrogacy clinics running illegally in the country… The whole issue is thoroughly unregulated.'