Monday, March 10, 2008

Surrogacy, ART, and the Science Council of Japan

"A Science Council of Japan panel, commissioned by the government to debate the status of assisted reproduction, called in its final report for a ban of surrogate births.

"The advisory panel, headed by Shigehiko Kamoshita, professor emeritus of medicine of the University of Tokyo, recommends passing a law to make it illegal, in principle, to arrange surrogate births for profit, perform such procedures or contract a surrogacy.

"On the other hand, the panel suggested that surrogacy could be allowed in clinical trials under the strict control of public entities. The panel's report was released Friday. Japan currently has no law covering such issues.

"The report is to be submitted to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Justice Ministry in April, after the council's executive board approves the recommendations.

"The debate on surrogate births will then move to the Diet, where some lawmakers support surrogate births. Opinions may prove divided on plans to introduce a legal ban.

"It is also unclear if lawmakers or the government will move to compile a bill on the issue at this time, analysts said.

"The panel's report said consideration should be given to allow surrogacy on a trial basis within strict legal limits, since there is no other way for a woman without a uterus to have a baby.

"The report said any surrogate who gives birth in a trial-basis surrogacy should be considered the baby's mother.

"Babies born in such circumstances, and those born through an overseas surrogate, can legally become the offspring of the couples who contracted the surrogacy through adoption, the report said.

"The panel did not touch on the right of children born to surrogates to know how they came into the world.

"It also did not give a conclusion on the pros and cons of having a surrogate give birth using sperm from the husband of the commissioning couple and eggs from a third woman fertilized in vitro.

"The advisory panel to the government on surrogacy was set up in late 2006, following the much-publicized case of TV personality Aki Mukai and her husband Nobuhiko Takada, a former professional wrestler. Their twin sons were born to a surrogate in the United States.

"Mukai and Takada sued the Shinagawa Ward office, which had rejected their request to register the twins as their own children. Mukai had a hysterectomy after a battle with uterine cancer. The twins were born to an American woman implanted with the couple's fertilized eggs.

"The Supreme Court ruled against the couple in March 2007.

"An opinion poll conducted by the health ministry in March 2007 showed that 54 percent of surveyed people said surrogate births "can be accepted by society," while 19 percent said such births were unacceptable.

"Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said: "It comes down to a vote by each individual lawmaker. And I want lawmakers to view (the panel's report) as one of the materials for debate on the issue."

"Many lawmakers, however, have remained reluctant to compile a bill on surrogacy.

"Although some noted the lack of consensus within their parties, others said most politicians are not even aware that the issue is something that should be debated in the Diet.

"While the Japan Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology has banned surrogacy, babies have been born to surrogates in Japan with the help of doctors who don't support the ban."

By Asahi Shimbun (3/10/2008), Link to article (last visited 3/10/2008)

1 comment:

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