Former biochemist, Shane Carter aka Dr. Ageless, has taken “on a new venture, arranging for Thai women to be surrogate parents for childless Melbourne couples.”
Dr. Carter, already a controversial figure, promises that he “will refer couples with fertility problems to a Bangkok-based clinic for an all-in fee of $75,000.”
His most recent consultation with a “woman who has been unable to bear a child after 15 failed IVF attempts and three miscarriages over four years of treatments” took place in an office “owned by Dr. Laurie Williams, who no longer practices medicine.”
If this does not sound controversial enough, “Mr Charter [was recently fired] as a consultant at Dr. Williams’ Ageing Australia clinic after Fairfax Media revealed the former champion powerlifter had been imprisoned for serious drug offences.”
But some women have experienced so much heartbreak that they are desperate. The unnamed consultant “still has four healthy embryos at the San Diego clinic that could be used should a suitable surrogate be found.”
The Age gives the full report:
She said Mr Charter had claimed to have developed a ”business model” that would help find a Thai surrogate and handle all legal and immigration issues when the child was born.
Mr Charter said the surrogates would be aged between 23 and 28, and receive the equivalent of seven times the average annual Thai salary for their services, according to the woman.
She was told a limousine would meet her at the airport and take her to the hospital when the child was born.
”Shane wouldn’t tell me who the doctor was or where the clinic was. Because I’ve been doing IVF for four years, I’m well educated about how it all works. He says he’d worked out a whole package, including legal issues and birth certificates,” the woman said.
She said $75,000 would be paid into a solicitor’s trust account, which would cover the entire cost of the surrogacy.
The woman took detailed notes of the conversation. She said Mr Charter had claimed to have interest from about 20 other couples considering surrogacy. After the conversation, Dr Williams warned the woman that Mr Charter had a criminal record for drug trafficking.
”I don’t have an issue with surrogacy, because I know the journey I’ve been through with IVF. But how can anyone make a career out of health when they have a criminal record for drug importation? It’s just ridiculous,” she said.
Fairfax Media can also reveal that Mr Charter approached Surrogacy Australia last week and made inquiries about a national conference to be held in Melbourne in April.
Dr Williams said he had referred the woman to Mr Charter because Mr Charter had personal experience regarding fertility treatment. He said Mr Charter was trying to help the woman and denied the biochemist was running a surrogacy agency.
”There is no proof that Charter has done anything wrong … I didn’t ask her [to come to the clinic], she came in my door and asked for help,” Dr Williams said.
Dr Williams did confirm that he made inquiries on behalf of the woman with a Thai clinic that provides surrogacy services. An email from Dr Williams last week stated: ”I have passed your interest on to the Thai group to follow up with you.”
”I said I can help you with the right people. The doctor in Thailand was in Melbourne a few years ago and I know him. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Dr Williams said.
There is no suggestion that Dr Williams received a fee or acted as an agent for any surrogacy clinic.
The Bangkok-based clinic is believed to be the All IVF Centre, headed by respected fertility specialist Dr Pisit Tantiwattanakul, who studied at Monash University.
Dr Tantiwattanakul has denied any business relationship with Shane Carter or Laurie Williams.
The centre is on the 13th floor of a high-rise building in central Bangkok. On Friday, an Australian couple sat in the rooms filling out forms and talking with consultants. The clinic offers services including surrogacy, embryo freezing and in vitro fertilisation.
Thailand and India are the only nations in Asia that offer surrogacy to overseas couples. There are no laws governing surrogacy in Thailand, where it is advertised as being 50 per cent less costly than in India.
One major Bangkok hospital advertises surrogacy services for $US22,000, not including birth and other costs. The surrogate mother receives about $US14,000.
Surrogacy Australia president Sam Everingham warned that some agents were in breach of Australian laws by organising surrogacy births overseas.
”It’s a grey area and the laws are different in each state. It’s legal to go overseas and access surrogacy, but it’s illegal to be a Victorian resident and assist someone with a commercial arrangement,” Mr Everingham said.
He said the average cost of a surrogate in Thailand was about $55,000.
”We’re deeply concerned by the number of agents sprouting up not just in Australia, but around the world, who are trying to sell a solution to couples who are often very desperate,” he said.
Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority chief executive Louise Johnson urged couples to seek independent legal and medical advice.
”Many people are so desperate to have a child that they don’t consider all the consequences. It’s critical people go in with their eyes wide open,” Ms Johnson said.
Last week, Fairfax Media revealed Mr Charter was found guilty of importing pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical for methamphetamine, from Malaysia between December 2003 and April 2004. Essendon coach James Hird and several other prominent AFL footballers were listed as prosecution witnesses for Mr Charter’s trial in 2006.
It is believed the players’ evidence was needed to rebut Mr Charter’s possible explanation that money seized, including more than $500,000 cash, came from legitimate work as a personal trainer and dietary adviser.
Mr Charter did not return calls from Fairfax Media.
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