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Gutter press on surrogacy

24 September 2001
By Juliet Tizzard
Director, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 126
It's not often that I get mad about a newspaper article. You expect mistakes to creep into articles about science. You even expect a little bit of sensationalism when it comes to discussing controversial issues. But one article in this week's Daily Mail was unusually vitriolic.

Mary Riddell, a regular Daily Mail writer, went to interview Ian Mucklejohn, the man who has triplets sons as a result of a surrogacy and egg donation arrangement with two American women (see below for more details). Mucklejohn was described by Riddell as 'a man who has reached mid-life without ever forging a normal family bond'. She goes on to call him a 'precise, pernickety, over-organised man used to being in control and bereft of emotional language or patience'. One illustration of his controlling and over-organised character is, according to Riddell, that he went out to buy cots and clothes for the boys before they were born!

This kind of character assassination is cheap and easy journalism. This isn't because Riddell's article is untrue (although it probably isn't: I think anyone would come across badly in such a hostile interview). Rather, it is because Riddell's snide comments are irrelevant. I have no idea what Ian Mucklejohn is like as a person or as a parent. As long he is a good enough parent - as opposed to a perfect one - it is no business of anyone's what he is like.

Mucklejohn himself makes the point that a woman in his position would not be newsworthy. Whilst single mothers are rarely welcomed with open arms, they are generally left alone to get on with their lives, as are men whose partners died in or shortly after childbirth. These men and women may rely upon nannies whilst they go out to work. They might be control freaks. They may even, heaven forbid, have bought cots and clothes before the birth of their child. But, as far as I know, none of these characteristics are reasons to preclude someone from becoming a parent, however they came to be one.

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