‘Keeping surrogacy in the family risks being messy’

In the wake of a medical ethics council recommendation to allow surrogacy in Sweden, new father through surrogacy Christoffer Lindén argues that rubber-stamping a practice already in use but fraught with legal hazards is not enough.

'Keeping surrogacy in the family risks being messy'

My husband and I became parents five months ago when we welcomed Daisy to the world. She was born in India, with the help of a surrogate. Personally, I think Sweden would do well to follow the new recommendation by the Medical Ethics Council (Statens medicinsk-etiska råd, Smer).

The report, however, is already a bit outdated.

First of all, about 25 children are born annually to Swedish parents using a surrogate abroad. This practice does not in any way break Sweden’s laws.

Problems can arise when it’s time to take the child home. They risk affecting the child directly and indirectly. It can take time, for example, for Swedish authorities to recognize the parent, thus delaying payments from the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) that administers child benefits and parental leave.

In certain Swedish municipalities, this process can take a very long time, which is in direct breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. All cases that involve children should be dealt with swiftly. We at the surrogate parent support network know of one case in Malmö where it has taken more than six months to register the father of a child born through surrogacy.

There are also further legal complications to the current situation. According to the letter of the law, the woman who carries a child is the legal mother, which means that if you have a child that is biologically yours through a surrogate you are not considered the parent. The outdated law creates problems for would-be parents in Sweden today.

Imagine, for example, a Swedish couple who travel to India. Let’s say that she has viable eggs but has lost her womb due to a medical condition, while her husband’s sperm are of good quality. They go through IVF and implant the embryo in the uterus of a surrogate, a married Indian woman.

When that child is born, it is the surrogate and her husband who are the parents according to Swedish law, while the Swedish couple are the parents according to Indian law.

SEE ALSO: ‘Lift Swedish ban on surrogate motherhood’

This leaves the child in legal no-man’s land. In the Malmö case, the child has remained in legal limbo for more than six months.

The Smer report is a step in the right direction. Imagine not having to travel to India but being able to stay in Sweden. It’s fantastic!

Yet the report, which contains many caveats, still needs to be looked at properly, including the recommendation that the surrogate should be a relative or close family member. Let’s say that a would-be parent doesn’t have a close female friend. Should he or she not be able to turn to an altruistic surrogate?

Furthermore, who actually has a relative or close friend that they think would do this for free?

There can also be an emotional toll to having the surrogate be part of your extended family or circle of friends. Imagine a family gathering at Easter, where the surrogate has to interact with the child she carried, and where the parents might feel self-conscious about their parenting efforts.

I wouldn’t want my sister to carry my child. Imagine Christmas Eve when she consciously or not ends up commenting on how I’m raising my child whom she carried. I think the Smer report caveat complicates the matter unnecessarily.

The Smer recommendation that no payment should take place is also, in my view, problematic.

SEE ALSO: ‘Women’s bodies aren’t simply containers’

Personally, I think the woman should be paid properly. Maybe she wants to study and be pregnant at the same time, or perhaps she wants to stay at home with her own children while she is pregnant. Is it not reasonable for her to be remunerated?

In broad strokes, I think it is fantastic that would-be parents in Sweden can stay in Sweden to have children with the help of a surrogate, if, of course, the government and parliament follows Smer’s recommendation and votes it through.

It will help many childless families in Sweden.

But I will stick to asking whether altruistic surrogacy is really the way to go? Let’s see.

Whatever your stance in this debate, there are a few principals that no one is arguing about: that the woman must be able to decide herself what happens to her body and that no one is exploited. And that children born by surrogates get the best welcome possible. It should not take six months for a child to get a legal parent, regardless of the circumstances surrounding his or her birth.

All surveys and studies into the well-being of children born via surrogacy say the same thing – that child is incredibly loved.

Christoffer Lindén is father to five-month-old Daisy.

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Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study

Swedish researchers say acupuncture "appears to reduce crying" in babies suffering from colic.

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study
File photo of a five-week old baby. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

But their work was criticized by colleagues in the medical field, with one calling the study methodology “appalling”.

A duo from Lund University's medicine faculty tested the traditional Chinese needle-piercing remedy in a trial involving nearly 150 babies between two and eight weeks old.

They reported their results in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, published by the BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Compared to babies who did not undergo the needle treatment, infants who received acupuncture over two weeks exhibited “a significant relative reduction” in crying, the team found.

Such research can be controversial. Acupuncture is invasive, potentially painful, and its benefits are not universally accepted.

Organizations such as the British Medical Acupuncture Society says it is used to treat muscle and postoperative pain, as well as nausea.

But some think acupuncture's effects are that of a placebo, meaning people feel better because they believe it works. The National Institutes of Health, the main UN research agency, says there is “considerable controversy” around its value.

Colic affects as many as one in five families, and is diagnosed when a baby cries for more than three hours per day on more than three days per week.

Why it occurs is not well understood. Indigestion, trapped wind and intolerance to cows' milk have been identified as possible causes.

For the study, colicky babies were divided into three groups of 49. One received “minimal” acupuncture treatment, while another was given up to five 30-second needlings per session. The third group was not given any needle treatment.

“Significantly fewer infants who received acupuncture continued to cry/fuss excessively,” the researchers concluded.

This suggested “acupuncture may be an effective treatment option” for babies crying more than three hours a day.

File photo of an adult person receiving acupuncture. Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Criticism of the study was harsh. David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, described the researchers' analysis of data as “incompetent” and “appalling”.

The study “certainly doesn't show that it [acupuncture] works”, he told the Science Media Centre.

“What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying? The idea sounds bizarre. It is.”

Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter said the study showed “almost the opposite of what the authors conclude”.

“We know that colicky babies respond even to minimal attention, and this trial confirms that a little additional TLC” – Tender Loving Care – “will generate an effect”.

A total of 388 acupuncture treatments were performed on the babies, the authors reported. On 200 occasions the infant did not cry at all after being pierced, 157 times they cried for up to a minute, and 31 times for more than that.

“The acupuncturists reported bleeding (a single drop of blood) on 15 occasions,” the authors said.

The treatment “may be considered ethically acceptable” if it managed to reduce excessive crying in the longer term, they added.

The report did not indicate what acupuncture points were used.

Article written by AFP's Mariètte Le Roux.