A 55-year old US grandmother has given birth to triplets - her own grandchildren - for her daughter. Tina Cade, from Virginia, carried the children for her daughter, Camille Hammond, who suffers from endometriosis, a condition affecting the lining of the uterus that makes it difficult to conceive naturally or sustain a pregnancy.
Camille and her husband Jason had tried six attempts of IVF but had been unsuccessful each time. Then Ms Cade offered to become pregnant for the couple, something she had apparently been contemplating since her daughter's condition was diagnosed in 1993. 'My mother approached us and asked if she could carry our babies', said Ms Hammond at a press conference, adding that the couple had resisted at first because of fears for her mother's health. In May, they decided to go ahead, and doctors transferred three embryos - formed from her daughter's eggs and Mr Hammond's sperm - to Ms Cade's womb. The babies were born in December, seven weeks early, by Caesarean section, after doctors became worried about the strain on Ms Cade's heart.
Such cases are unusual, but not unknown. Using a relative as a surrogate can enable infertile couples to have a family while avoiding the strain, and often the expense, of using a stranger. 'When families are emotionally sound, I think it is a good thing', said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist. However, in the UK and in some states of the US, Ms Cade, the grandmother of the children, would also be registered as the legal mother of the child, which would complicate such arrangements. In Virginia, however, the mother is considered to be the woman who provided the genetic material. But R Alto Charo, of the University of Wisconsin, said she finds 'these arrangements personally troubling', adding: 'The 55-year old woman giving birth will be the genetic grandmother but gestational mother to the baby. The woman who will be doing the rearing will be the genetic mother but gestational sister'.
Meanwhile, the US state of Illinois has passed legislation regulating 'gestational' surrogacy and clarifying parentage following such arrangements - ones like that undertaken by Ms Cade, where the embryos are not formed from the surrogate's own egg. The new law, known as the Gestational Surrogacy Act, has been described as 'the most liberal and comprehensive of its kind'. Paid surrogacy is allowed and regulated for couples who have a medically legitimate need, and who can provide at least one of the gametes to conceive the child. The law allows for enforceable surrogacy contracts and clarifies that the intended parents are the legal parents from birth and have immediate parental responsibility. But the surrogate, who must be over 21 and have had her own child(ren), maintains full bodily autonomy during the pregnancy, thereby retaining the right to an abortion or to refuse medical treatments.