Ethical Issues With Surrogacy

People struggle with ethical issues throughout many situations in life. In many cases, it’s not a simple question of doing the right thing versus the wrong thing, but the struggle comes from trying to define what is right or what is wrong. These questions of ethics can be encountered just about anywhere, from the question of whether buying products from a company that promotes bigotry supports, that bigotry, to whether people should or shouldn’t have the right to terminate their lives prematurely if they have received a terminal diagnosis on a disease.

One area where ethics will always play a major role is in the topic of children. But even before asking about the ethical or unethical ways to raise a child, there are questions of ethics that may come before even that. Some people are unable to have children the conventional way, and so use other means to make their dreams come true and start a family. One of those ways is through the use of a surrogate mother.

As to be expected, here too, there are certain ethical issues that some people will have to examine before they arrive at their own conclusions about surrogacy. But what are those ethical issues? Here are some of the bigger questions people may think about.

Surrogacy Over Adoption

Of course, surrogacy is not the only way to start a family, and one of the oldest and simplest is to adopt a child. Adoption brings with it its own set of concerns and challenges. You are, after all, bringing a new child into your home, and it may be an infant, a toddler, or even a child capable of speech and retaining memories of his or her original family.

The biggest ethical question people wrestle with here is taking in a child, without parents, who would benefit from belonging to, and being loved and accepted by a new family, versus the expense and effort of going to a surrogate mother and having a newborn baby. One major point of concern is genetics. Should a hopeful family choose to go the route of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, then this means, unlike an adopted child, the baby will be the “full child” of the parents, genetically speaking. As with traditional childbirth, a medical evaluation of an IVF child will reveal DNA is 50% of each parent, with the only difference being the baby was carried to term in a uterus other than the genetic mother.

So for people wanting to start a family, there is always the question of providing an already needy child with a new home and family, versus bringing new life into the world.

Screening For Medical Conditions

Another area where ethical questions arise is in the practice of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD. This is an option available to parents who wish to undertake IVF if they are willing to pay for it. Under ordinary circumstances, a newborn is a genetic “roll of the dice,” and whatever the baby is when born, is what parents have to accept. This, however, is not the case with IVF.

An IVF surrogacy means more than one egg can be fertilized, and that hopeful parents have their “pick” of which one will eventually be implanted in a surrogate mother. Modern PGD methods can detect over 400 different conditions that may be genetically passed down to a child, from cystic fibrosis to Down’s Syndrome.

For hopeful parents that go the IVF route and are willing to pay for multiple fertilization and PGD screening, if there are hereditary illnesses they don’t want their children burdened with, they now have the ability to bypass the “genetic roll of the dice” risk by picking the fertilized egg that is screened and found to not have the conditions of concern. For some, this may be a serious ethical dilemma versus simply accepting what a single fertilized egg has bequeathed to a hopeful family, as it is with most people.

Traveling Abroad

Some countries do not legally recognize surrogacy, meaning that parents who have a child by a surrogate mother in these nations do not have any legal custody of that child; the surrogate mother is considered the parent. However, there are other nations, such as Georgia, where surrogacy and the rights of the hopeful parents are fully, legally recognized, and protected.

For some, this means struggling with the question of going to these other countries to undertake surrogacy or accepting the laws that have been decreed in the home country, state, or province. It is a difficult question to answer, especially if the desire to have a family is strong, but the medical obstacles in place prevent natural childbirth.

All couples need to ask themselves these questions and find the answers they can live with to make their decision. If you have any questions, go to the experts and see if the answers they provide will help to make the decision clearer and let you proceed with more conviction in your choice.