Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surrogacy

Stephanie Saul has a long piece in today's Times (here) about surrogacy. The article focuses on the uncertain legal landscape as to the biological and birth parents' rights.

Saul reports that there are about 750 surrogate births per year in the US. I would have guessed there'd be a significantly higher number - I guess it is still a relatively uncommon phenomena. Saul says that most surrogate births go without a hitch but there are several high profile cases in which one or the other of the parents is arguing for custody of the child.

State law governs the custody issues, and the American Bar Association is working on a uniform law provision to help out the many (majority of) states that are silent on the issue of surrogacy.

This is a picture by Fabrizio Constantini from the Times article. It shows surrogate parents Laschell and Paul Baker with the babies for whom they are arguing for custody.

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This article brought to mind an article I read earlier this year about kidney donations (my post about it is here). In both cases, the law is struggling to keep pace with technological change: legislators and judges are trying to think about issues that can be really confusing. One such issue is the role that money/commerce can or should play in medicine.

The first time I remember really grappling with questions of biotechnology and medicine was during a roundtable discussion at the fall 1990 Jefferson Scholars candidates' weekend. The candidates were asked to read several articles, and then we were watched and critiqued while we discussed them. It was a challenging exercise for me, and I cannot recall what I said (I don't think I said much!). Notwithstanding how much the world has changed in the twenty years since, the big ethical questions remain very much painted in shades of grey.

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