Experts clash on surrogacy proposals

Physicians are divided over which women qualify as surrogate mothers in the proposed draft bill.

The Medical Council of Thailand (MCT) and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RTCOG) on Friday hosted a meeting of 240 obstetricians, including 100 doctors with assisted reproductive technology licences.

Thares Karasnairaviwong, deputy director-general of the Department of Health Service Support (HSS), said the HSS insists that non-related surrogate mothers should be banned under the legislation and those who violate the clause must face charges. The HSS would propose increasing penalties.

The department would also propose increasing representatives from civil groups on the committee formed under the law for the protection of children born through assisted productive technology. The current draft proposes members of the committee be mostly from the medical profession.

However, MCT president Somsak Lolekha expressed a different view on amendments to the draft surrogacy law, particularly the law's strictness.

"There are many married couples without relatives, and they want to have children but they can't," he said.

If the law is too strict, he said, doctors will fear giving surrogacy services while parents who want to use the services legally will be affected.

He suggested that the surrogacy law should broadly define what a surrogate mother is and that the definition be based upon MCT regulations.

"We should not narrow down the chances in the future as it will violate human rights principles," he said.

The MCT's regulations also ban non-related surrogate mothers. However, the agency is considering changing this.

Dr Somsak said the MCT has summoned three doctors who were involved in illegal surrogacy services. Three of them owned or worked in surrogacy clinics raided by the HSS between late July and this month.

Some of them are believed to have provided services in Gammy and Mr Shigeta's cases.

The MCT's members will meet on Sept 9 to clarify the three doctors' offences before forwarding the cases to the MCT's special investigation body.

Meanwhile, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Peter Varghese on Friday met acting permanent secretary for justice Charnchao Chaiyanukit and permanent secretary for foreign affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow to discuss solving problems over surrogate babies in Thailand.

Mr Charnchao said Mr Varghese said the Australian embassy will conduct DNA testing on the babies and compare the results with their parents and their Thai surrogate mothers to prove the babies are Australian by descent. The embassy will issue citizenship papers and passports for the babies.

The consent of the Thai surrogate mothers is needed before the babies are taken out of the country.

Mr Sihasak said Australia understands Thailand will soon enact a surrogacy law but is concerned about problems during the transition period.

The Australian embassy confirmed 15 surrogate babies had finished all related processes and had already left for Australia but it is thought there were at least 150 cases involving Australians in Thailand over the past two years.

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