Payment of ‘reasonable expenses’ to embryo donors suggested

New relationships Bill allows for payment of expenses to surrogate mothers, but prohibits use of commercial surrogacy services

The Bill should address the anonymity or non-anonymity of sperm, egg and embryo donors, says the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Photograph:  Alan Betson

The Bill should address the anonymity or non-anonymity of sperm, egg and embryo donors, says the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 01:09

New laws should permit the payment of “reasonable expenses” to sperm, egg and embryo donors involved in assisted reproduction arrangements, according to the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Counselling should be mandatory for anyone undergoing assisted reproduction treatment, the institute says in a submission on the new Children and Family Relationships Bill.

The Bill, published by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in January, allows for the payment of expenses to surrogate mothers, but prohibits the use of commercial surrogacy services. These services are increasingly being sought by Irish couples in countries such as India, Ukraine and the US and can cost between €30,000 and €150,000.

The Bill, which proposes a long-anticipated legal basis for surrogacy and assisted human reproduction in the State, provides for penalties for using commercial surrogacy services of up to a year in prison.


Confusing terms
However, the institute says this may be “unworkable”.

Members will call for greater clarity in the legislation when they address the Oireachtas justice committee today.

The institute says the word “conception”, as used in the Bill, is “a vague term with no clear medical definition” and should be replaced by “clear time points which are relevant to the particular treatment being undertaken”.

Similarly, the term “human reproductive material” is confusing, according to the institute, and should be replaced by the terms sperm, oocyte (egg) and embryo.

The Bill should address the anonymity or non-anonymity of sperm, egg and embryo donors, given the right of children to access information about their genetic origins, it also says.

It should incorporate provision for posthumous conception through assisted reproduction, as in other European countries. The institute says this is of particular relevance to cancer patients and those who wish to freeze sperm, eggs or embryos.


Surrogate
The institute says the Bill should include a mechanism whereby potential surrogates and patients can access information about surrogacy services. It should also include cases where a child is conceived using a donated embryo or an embryo where the sperm and egg have both been donated by third parties, and where a surrogate mother conceives using her own eggs.

Among the areas where the institute says greater clarity is needed are the right of the surrogate to dictate medical care during the pregnancy; legal responsibility for care of the child during the interval from birth to the time of assignment and parentage; and responsibility for the care of a child born with a significant disability or foetal anomaly.

The submission was drawn up following consultation with professionals in the fertility area, including embryologists and fertility nurses and counsellors.