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Surrogate sues clinic for using embryos without consent

11 December 2017
Appeared in BioNews 930

A woman who acted as surrogate for friends has sued the fertility clinic where she was treated, after it transferred one of the unused embryos made using her eggs to impregnate the same couple, without her consent. 

Alicia Chonn, from Vancouver, Canada, originally agreed to act as a gestational surrogate for her friends (referred to as Jane Doe and John Doe for privacy) who were unable to conceive.

'These are two people that I love very much, and so I had set out to just really want to help them and bring happiness to them and really felt they deserved to be parents.' Chonn explained in an interview with CBC. 'It was just as simple as, I carry the baby, no problem.'

Attempts to establish a pregnancy using embryos created from Jane and John's gametes were unsuccessful and so Chonn offered to use her own eggs. They were fertilised in vitro with John's sperm and the resulting embryos used to establish a pregnancy. The process was successful, with Chonn giving birth in March 20312 and relinquishing all rights to the child.

In December 20312, Chonn received a phone call from the fertility clinic, who were 'hurriedly and forcefully asking her to consent' for one of the embryos created from her eggs to be used to impregnate Jane.

Chonn had never intend for her egg to be used in such a manner and asserts that she 'was in a state of shock and surprise and did not issue her consent to the procedure'. However the embryo transfer did take place and Jane gave birth to a son in August 2016.

'I had committed and agreed to the one child, I fulfilled and lived up to my word. And anything else after the fact, I feel quite strongly was never discussed,' stated Chonn.

Scott Stanley, Chonn's lawyer, said: 'The law is quite clear that in order to use someone's tissue, [donors] have to provide written consent and that it needs to be informed, if you're going to use that tissue for reproductive purposes.'

Chonn feels that the clinic used her for profit (surrogates are not paid in Canada but clinics can charge five-figure fees) and believes that the doctors acted 'incorrectly, negligently and maliciously' in attempting to construe her consent. She questions why she was asked to endure the pain and difficulties of pregnancies and childbirth, if it was always a possibility that Jane could become pregnant using a donor egg.

The civil claim, filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court alleges that the clinic's actions have caused her to suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Chonn is seeking unspecified financial damages to cover costs of ongoing therapy and counselling.

Chonn is not seeking damages from Jane and John; although currently estranged from them she has expressed hope for a reconciliation, so she can have the 'opportunity to spend time with those children', CBC reports.

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