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.