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Surrogacy arrangements suspected of being used for stem cells

Publication Date : 07-08-2014


Thai police probing case involving nine babies found in a condo


Following much-publicised case of the unauthorised surrogacy involving a Thai mother and an Australian couple, a raid by Thai police and soldiers at a Bangkok condominium found nine babies thought to have been fathered by a Japanese man.

Former Thai Social Development and Human Security Minister Paveen Hongsakul, who initiated the raid on Tuesday on Soi Lat Phrao 130, feared that in the worst-case scenario, this "surrogacy-for-hire" scam may be related to the potentially fatal extraction of foetal fluid to provide stem cells.

She also called on authorities to investigate a case involving a woman who said she was paid for surrogate pregnancy, but lost the baby seven months into her pregnancy. Pavena wants investigators to find out if the foetus's spinal fluid was extracted for use in stem cell treatments.

As for the nine babies found in the Lat Phrao condo, Pavena said most of them looked Caucasian, while only one had Asian features. The infants were between 15 and 50 days old.

She urged surrogate mothers to contact her, the police, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry or the Public Health Ministry for help.

The Thai police are now taking action, with national police chief Pol General Aek Angsananont saying yesterday that DNA-based paternal checks were underway.

Meanwhile, police are questioning a lawyer representing the unnamed Japanese man who allegedly fathered the nine babies and the seven nannies hired to take care of the infants. Another woman, who is six months into her pregnancy, is also being interviewed, he added.

Pol Colonel Chitphob Tomuen, a commander of the Thai police Anti-Human Trafficking Division, said his division would help with the investigation and was prepared to file charges against people who might be violating medical profession regulations.

A senior physician specialising in fertility medicine, yesterday voiced his support for immediate verification of the nine babies' DNA. Dr Somboon Kunathikom, former chairman of the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RTCOG), said the latest discovery was suspicious because children borne through surrogacy were usually adopted almost immediately by couples who foot the hospital bills.

The nine babies are now in a government home for children in Nonthaburi and will be kept there while investigation and DNA testing are being undertaken.

Dr Somsak Lolekha, chairman of the Medical Council of Thailand, vowed yesterday to take drastic action against cases of surrogacy if they would be found to be violating medical profession regulations. This was after the latest case involving a baby boy with Down's Syndrome, who was reportedly abandoned by an Australian couple, was reported.

Somsak also promised to push a bill that was initiated six years ago, which would slap stiff penalties on women who would agree to surrogate pregnancy arrangements, those violating existing medical regulations and those acting as go-betweens or playing any other role in the scam.

He said doctors, clinics or hospitals that perform unauthorised surrogacies would be held responsible under the general Medical Council of Thailand rules and be subject to penalty. "The bill [when made into law] will subject women willing to take part and all parties involved to strict penalty," he added.

Existing regulations do not penalise women willing to take part in surrogate pregnancies. They only prohibit women from carrying babies if they are not related to the adoptive parents or if they are doing it for money.

The law also stipulates that doctors not registered with RTCOG would be subject to a one-year imprisonment and/or a fine and,ultimately, the revocation of their licence if found guilty by the Medical Council of Thailand in a further investigation on grounds of morality and professional ethics.



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