Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Surrogacy in Japan

Japan doctor says helped births through surrogacy

Sun, Feb 3 02:33 PM

A Japanese obstetrician said on Sunday he had helped two couples have babies through surrogate mothers over the past two years, criticising moves by academics to make the practice illegal.

Japan's obstetricians' association is opposed to births by surrogate mothers and academics recently drafted a proposal for the government to ban such births by law. A final report is due at the end of March, according to media.

Yahiro Netsu, one of a handful of doctors to have helped couples have children through surrogate mothers, said it was unfair to deny infertile couples the chance to have children.

"It's ridiculous to force values on people, to not allow something that has been agreed upon by two parties," Netsu, who runs a maternity clinic in Nagano, central Japan, said by telephone.

"Couples should be given the freedom to choose."

Surrogate motherhood has amassed wide media attention in Japan in recent years, in part due to a celebrity couple who had twin boys through an American surrogate mother in 2003.

The family made headlines last year when it lost a case in Japan's Supreme Court to have the boys registered in Japan. The children have only U.S. citizenship and are required to carry alien-registration cards.

Netsu, long known for defying the obstetrics' association and urging the medical community to review its opposition to surrogate motherhood, said he was currently helping another couple give birth through surrogacy.

He declined to give details on his patients, but said that prior to 2006, he helped five couples have babies through surrogate mothers.

A government survey last year showed 54 percent of respondents were in favour of allowing surrogate births, but academics have questioned the health risks for both the surrogate mother and child, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

Netsu said he also helped an unmarried 60-year-old woman give birth to a boy in December after she had gotten pregnant with an embryo created from donated egg and sperm.

Netsu, whose clinic cared for her after other medical institutions in Japan refused to see her, said the case showed that older woman were able to have children as long as they were in healthy condition.

Late childbearing, defined by the World Health Organisation as involving women over age 35, has been increasing in Japan as more women work and marry at a later age.

Surrogate Mother to Eight babies!

Anita Brush is happy in her role as a surrogate mum to eight babies

By Rita de Brun
Monday February 04 2008

Six years ago, Dublin couple, John Mc-Mahon and Gerard Whelan became the proud fathers of triplets. The event came about with the help of Anita Brush, a surrogate mother from California.

Fiercely protective of their family unit, John talks about their experience only to help others considering surrogacy. The closeness and affection between John, Gerard and Anita is obvious and they all agree that they knew instinctively when they met, that they would have kids together.

They had a good feeling about Anita when they met. "We liked each other instantly," says John. "We all knew that our meeting was meant to be.

"Of course, when we discovered that we were having not one or two but three children, we were totally blown away but quite overjoyed, and we trusted Anita to do whatever she could to keep our babies safe.

"We knew she wouldn't drink, smoke or take drugs, as she simply wasn't the type. She's a genuinely caring person, so we knew she would take it easy and try to hold on to the babies until term;,and she did," John adds.

"Anita is a close friend of our family and often comes to stay with us. She and the children get on really well together. We have a very deep and special bond with her and we know that without her, we wouldn't have our kids, so we'll always be grateful."

At 41, Anita Brush has a figure that most women in their early twenties would be glad of. On looks alone, nobody would ever believe that she is a mother of 11.

"Ten years ago, my then husband was training to be a teacher, so I needed to go back to work," says Anita. "I wanted a job that would allow me to be around for our children, and something that would have a positive impact on others.

"I had previously worked in childcare and always loved children. Also, I enjoyed being pregnant and wanted to help childless couples."

Anita had three children of her own, the youngest being two, when she first became a surrogate mother.

"My first pregnancy was for a heterosexual Japanese couple," she recalls. "Then the following year I had a baby for a heterosexual American couple. The triplets arrived in 2001. Then, two years later, I had twins for a gay couple in the Midwest, and in October of the following year, I had a third child for that same couple. In all, I had eight babies in seven years for four couples."

Then, she laughs: "Well I didn't set out to have that many, you know."

Anita says that for her, the highs were in not having to worry about the practicalities of raising a child.

"I get immense enjoyment out of being pregnant, but I have no difficulty handing the baby over to the parents at the birth," she adds. "They take over the responsibilities, and I go home to my family.

"Of course, my body isn't aware of that arrangement, so I have to get used to the hormonal changes that happen after giving birth," she concedes.

"And there have been times, following the births, when I've felt the need to hold a baby close. When that happens, I just hold my friend's babies for a while and that does the trick."

As to her own children, and the impact of her surrogacy on them, Anita believes that their experience was positive.

"Their lives have been enriched by the wonderful people we've met along the way. We keep in touch with all the families, and this has been very positive for my kids. Also, they had me at home with them all the time, and that was a big plus for all of us."

Two years ago, Anita, as a guest on Good Morning America, cautioned women never to become a surrogate mother for financial gain. "Do not do this for the money," she said. "If you want to classify this as a job, it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

For five pregnancies, she earned a total of $130,000, and it couldn't have been easy.

"I drank a gallon of whole-milk every day for the benefit of the triplets and I gained 80lbs," says Anita laughing. I used to feel a little queasy, but never sick and it was worth it."

Describing herself as very accepting of varying points of view, Anita says that her life experience has shown that there is no such thing as an ideal family type.

"What counts is the love between the members of that family, and that's what makes Gerard, John, and their children a beautiful family."

Surrogacy in Ireland
MOST of us are familiar with Cork woman Maureen O'Connor who, with her partner Justin Pearlman (right), offered €5,000 in their search for a surrogate mother

While their story attracted substantial media coverage, there are no doubt far more Irish families who have children with the help of surrogate mothers than we know.

Most Irish couples considering the surrogacy option head overseas because there is no specific law or protections governing the process here, should complications arise.

Fiona Duffy, partner at Patrick F O'Reilly & Co Solicitors, explains that there is no specific legislation in place governing the law on surrogacy in Ireland.

But the topic was considered by the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction. Although their report, which was produced in April 2005, made many recommendations, none have yet been implemented.

At present, the surrogate mother will be registered as mother on the birth certificate. If she is married, her husband will be named as father. If she is single, the commissioning father can apply to be registered as father.

If she is not married, she alone is the guardian of the infant. This may be so even though there is no genetic link between her and the child.

The commission recommended that a child born through surrogacy should be presumed to be the child of the commissioning couple.

As to whether the identity of the donors should be withheld, their view was that this information should in the long-term be made available to any child who results from the procedure.

Of 43 surrogate families in a British study, nearly two-fifths involved full surrogacy, where the embryo is provided by the commissioning couple and therefore the carrier of the child does not have any genetic link to the child. Just over three-fifths involved partial surrogacy, where the male partner has donated his sperm through a process of insemination or IVF. The egg is provided by the host herself.

Two-thirds of the surrogate mothers were unknown to the commissioning couple prior to the surrogacy arrangement, while the remaining third of surrogate mothers were either a sister or a friend of the commissioning mother.

Researcher Fiona MacCallum said: "It is often assumed that surrogate mothers will have difficulties handing the child over following the birth.

"In fact, we found only one instance of the surrogate having slight doubts at this time."

- Rita de Brun

Embryos Created from 3 people!

Embryos created with DNA from 3 people By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer

LONDON - British scientists say they have created human embryos containing DNA from two women and a man in a procedure that researchers hope might be used one day to produce embryos free of inherited diseases.

Though the preliminary research has raised concerns about the possibility of genetically modified babies, the scientists say that the embryos are still only primarily the product of one man and one woman.

"We are not trying to alter genes, we're just trying to swap a small proportion of the bad ones for some good ones," said Patrick Chinnery, a professor of neurogenetics at Newcastle University involved in the research.

The research was presented at a scientific conference recently, but has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

The process aims to create healthy embryos for couples to avoid passing on genes carrying diseases.

The genes being replaced are the mitochondria, a cell's energy source, which are contained outside the nucleus in a normal female egg. Mistakes in the mitochondria's genetic code can result in serious diseases like muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, strokes and mental retardation.

In their research, Chinnery and colleagues used normal embryos created from one man and one woman that had defective mitochondria in the woman's egg. They then transplanted that embryo into an emptied egg donated from a second woman who had healthy mitochondria.

The research is being funded by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, a British charity.

Only trace amounts of a person's genes come from the mitochondria, and experts said it would be incorrect to say that the embryos have three parents.

"Most of the genes that make you who you are are inside the nucleus," Chinnery said. "We're not going anywhere near that."

So far, 10 such embryos have been created, though they have not been allowed to develop for more than five days. Chinnery hoped that after further experiments in the next few years the process might be available to parents undergoing in-vitro fertilization.

"If successful, this research could give families who might otherwise have a bleak future a chance to avoid some very grave diseases," said Francoise Shenfield, a fertility expert with the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Shenfield was not connected to the Newcastle University research.

Similar experiments have been conducted in animals in Japan, and has already led to the birth of healthy mice who had their mitochondria genes corrected.

Shenfield said that further tests to assess the safety and efficacy of the process were necessary before it could be offered as a potential treatment.

A bill to allow the procedure to be regulated as a therapy for couples — once it is proven to work — is expected to be discussed in Britain's House of Commons in March