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Assisted Reproduction

Indian Surrogate Accused Of Blackmail

Another disconcerting incident out of India:

The city police are investigating a complaint filed by an infertility centre against a surrogate mother, who allegedly breached her agreement with the hospital when she was three months pregnant and demanded a hefty compensation of Rs 15 lakh later.

However, surrogate mother Rajeswary (30), who gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday, told TOI that she had never sought any extra payment from the hospital and wished to hand over the two-day-old baby to its real parents. Rajeswary, of Kumaran Thirunagar in Dindigul, said she was not in a financial condition to support the newborn after losing four fingers in an accident. Also, her husband Sivakumar was bedridden due to ill-health.

In his complaint at the Race Course police station here, K M Balakrishnan, manager of Iswarya Women’s Hospital and Fertility Centre at Avarampalayam, said Rajeswary had entered into an agreement with the hospital in January to become a surrogate mother for a fee of Rs 1 lakh. According to the agreement, she was to stay in the hospital till delivery, during which all her expenses would be taken care of.

Also, Rajeswary was prevented from accessing any information regarding the childless couple for whom she was carrying the child. But in the last week of march, when she was three months pregnant, Rajeswary left the hospital, Balakrishnan alleged in his complaint.

Repeated attempts to contact her and her husband failed. Balakrishnan claimed Rajeswary contacted the hospital on Monday, saying she had given birth to a baby boy on Sunday and would hand him over to the hospital only if she was paid Rs 15 lakh.

When TOI contacted Rajeswary over phone, she said she had agreed to become a surrogate mother to get money to treat her ailing husband. According to her, the hospital allowed her to become a surrogate after forcing her to sign blank paper sheets. There was no written agreement or contract, she claimed.

As she did not have children, the hospital agreed to allow Sivakumar to stay with her till the delivery. However, she alleged, the hospital threw him out after three months. She was then forced to leave the hospital to look after her husband. After she gave birth on Sunday, she contacted the hospital to hand over the baby to the childless couple, she claimed.

Advocate M V Vijayaraghavan claimed it was the hospital which had denied the basic human rights of the poor surrogate mother. “She became a surrogate only to support her ailing husband. The hospital insisted that she stay there for 10 months without meeting her husband. If the hospital is moving ahead with the complaint, we will fight it legally,” he said.

However, hospital assistant manager Sreemathi said Rajeswary’s husband had also signed an agreement agreeing to all terms and conditions. “There was no cheating on the part of the hospital,” she said. The hospital’s chief physician Chandralekha was not available for comment.

However, surrogate mother Rajeswary (30), who gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday, told TOI that she had never sought any extra payment from the hospital and wished to hand over the two-day-old baby to its real parents.

I have previously shared my concerns about surrogacy in India. As echoed in previous posts, this case highlights the differences between surrogacy in American and abroad. First of all, the surrogate in this case never had a child of her own — a factor that would disqualify her from consideration in every legitimate surrogacy program in the United States. Secondly, I continue to be troubled by the compulsory detention of these surrogates. The hardship that is placed on these women to spend 40 weeks confined to a “hospital” until their baby is born, seems to me to be unduly oppressive and creates an environment where situations like this can occur. So regardless of the validity of the accusations in this particular case, there are some very significant systemic problems that should give anyone pause before considering a surrogacy arrangement in India.


3 comments for “Indian Surrogate Accused Of Blackmail”

  • Jon

    It’s important that you add some perspective to this story so as not to give readers the wrong impressions. First, India is a country of 1.3 billion people and there are thousands and thousands of fertility clinics scattered across the country, where an average “town”, in their definition, is 300,000+ people. Coimbitore, where this incident took place, is a complete backwater for Westerners seeking surrogacy services in India. In fact, ANY SANE WESTERNER who has done their research and due diligence will know that there are only perhaps, 5-7 clinics out of the thousands, that are acceptable from a sanitary and ethical standpoint to be used. Anyone else who tries to go off the beaten path and solicit these services in backwater towns and clinics never heard of by Westerners deserves what they get. Most importantly, the US consulates in India are very helpful and maintain an active list of clinics which they will freely give information about to anyone who inquires. If the clinic is not on the radar of these consulates then potential clients should avoid them at all costs. Finally, given some of the recent surrogacy scandals in the US, this incident is much ado about nothing. In fact, there was no negative outcome for anyone; the baby was delivered to the commissioning parents ultimately.

    • Hi Jon,

      Thank you for giving some context. I am not suggesting that this situation is typical as clearly it is not. However, surrogacy in India remains perilous. As matters currently stand, there are no regulations in India dealing with surrogacy. We have seen numerous examples of questionable practices, including allowing women who have never delivered a child to be able to serve as surrogates. I also have serious concerns about programs that have compulsory internment policies for their gestational carriers.

      We have also shared on this blog the numerous immigration obstacles that exist and the cases in which Intended Parents were unable to secure passports to return home with their children (in one case, parents from Canada had to wait 6 years in India before they could return home). There have also been reports of Intended Parents learning after-the-fact that their child is not genetically related to them because of mix-ups in the IVF lab. In one case, parents of twins learned that only one of their children were genetically related to them.

      Do we have problems in the United States? Most certainly and we have attempted to conscientiously report on the dangers of surrogacy here in the United States. In fairness, we have also blogged on positive arrangements that have taken place in India. So while there was a happy ending in this case, I have to respectfully disagree that this situation was “much ado about nothing.” Rather, it highlights the perils of working in a country that is devoid of regulation and ignores many of the standards and protocols that exist in the United States and elsewhere that are designed to protect the well-being of the child, intended parents and carrier.

  • Jon

    You are right proceed with extreme caution, because India (or Guatemala or Thailand or Ukraine) are not Kansas anymore! The other important thing for your readers to take away from this, especially those who are not affluent and for whom places like India is the ONLY possible route for them to achieve parenthood via surrogacy, is to network with US citizens who have already gone through this process and to use only clinics that are well-known and reputable to Americans and other Westerners. This subset of providers is very small. I am not going to endorse any of them but Dr Google can lead people to the right direction assuming one does their due diligence. Also, the US consulates are usually a good resource to check with for feedback on specific clinics. They will not endorse or recommend any, but they will certainly respond to inquiries and alert US citizens of any scams or clinics that are anti-American or engaging in illegal and/or unethical behavior.

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