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Surrogacy: Confusion amid reports of boy 'abandoned' by intended parents

4 August 2014
Appeared in BioNews 765

A child with Down's syndrome born to a Thai surrogate is reported to have been abandoned by the intended parents, an Australian couple, who have denied the allegations. Conflicting versions of the developing story have been reported.

The surrogate mother, named as Pattaramon Chanbua, said that an Australian couple took home only one baby after she had twins, leaving a boy, Gammy, who is being cared for by Chanbua in hospital.

However, the Australian couple, reported to be Gammy's biological parents but who have not been named, have said that they are unaware of the child's existence. Speaking to ABC news, the alleged father explained that he had not been told about Gammy's birth and that the surrogacy agency no longer existed. The couple also told Channel Nine that they had a daughter the same age as Gammy born through surrogacy but that she did not have a twin .

Chanbua, however, maintains that the father had visited the twins in hospital. She also said that she had refused to undergo an abortion at the couple's request. But the couple has said that the woman they have seen on TV is not the same surrogate mother they met in Thailand.

Gammy, who is now six months old, has Down's syndrome and a congenital heart and lung defect requiring surgery. He is currently being cared for in hospital and is reported to be 'improving'.

An online campaign to raise funds for Gammy's medical care and future operations has so far raised over $220,000 in 13 days. Its creators have remained anonymous but the website states that the funds raised will not be paid directly to the surrogate mother and her family but will be held on trust by a charity, Hands Across the Water, and will only be used for the 'care and wellbeing of Gammy'.

Hands Across the Water founder Peter Baines told Guardian Australia: 'We will meet the immediate needs of his treatment in hospital now and then develop a long-term strategy over the next couple of weeks'.

The case has received a great deal of media attention and has highlighted the problems with overseas surrogacy arrangements. Thailand did not previously regulate surrogacy, explains UK law firm Dawson Cornwell, but officials have recently declared that only altruistic surrogacy will be permitted where a heterosexual, married and infertile couple have commissioned a blood relative to act as a surrogate.

Thailand's military government has recently conducted a review of all its fertility clinics and Gammy's case was reportedly presented to the committee that announced the recent reforms.

Meanwhile, Sam Everingham of Surrogacy Australia said that Australian laws around surrogacy were inadequate, and urged reform in this area. 'We do want to see the Australian Government putting money into surrogacy education and support for families who are at the moment going overseas with the Government really just turning their back on them', he said.

The Australian Government is said to be considering intervening in the case, with Scott Morrison, an immigration minister, suggesting the boy may be entitled to Australian citizenship, where healthcare is provided by the state.

A lawyer is reported to be preparing a statement on the intended parents' behalf.

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