02/28/2011, 00.00
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India, wombs for rent and "medical tourism". The risks of progress without ethics

A report by Dr. Carvalho, Indian expert at the recent General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life emphasizes the danger of technology without controls and without ethical boundaries. The warning of Benedict XVI: Doctors must protect women from deception of abortion.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - India is the Asian country where "medical tourism" is most prevalent: wombs for rent, sale of eggs and sperm, etc. .. A law is even being prepared to regulate all of these practices. This is what emerges from a report by Dr. Pascoal Carvalho, an Indian member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which presented last week at the Vatican. On February 26, Benedict XVI received in audience the participants in the XVII General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy.

The Pope recalled the drama of abortion: "Doctors, in particular, must never undermine the serious task of defending the consciousness of many women from deceit.  Women who often believe they will find the solution for family, economic, social difficulties or the health problems of their child in abortion. Especially in the latter situation, the woman is often convinced, sometimes by the same doctors, that abortion is a choice not only morally permissible, but even a necessary "therapeutic" act to avoid the suffering of the child and his family, and becoming an "unfair" burden to society. "

Dr. Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy of India, gave a report on the situation of his country, of which we publish excerpts focusing on the phenomenon of surrogacy and medical tourism. "Although, India is a recent entrant into the medical tourism arena, it is emerging as a major medical tourism destination.. Medical tourism in India is advertised with the formula of ' First World medical treatment at Third World costs”.

“Already India is being termed the cradle of surrogacy and medical tourism. The current upsurge of the surrogacy trade in India points towards an unfettered commercialisation of assisted reproductive technology and the practice of surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy, though banned in several developed countries for obvious reasons, may soon become a reality in India thanks to the joint efforts of private medical establishments and the Union government. Interestingly, the bill, did not involve at any stage women’s groups or public health activists in its drafting… Regulation of surrogacy, many feel, would give a legitimate stamp to the commercial activity that is already under way”.

“In India, we have had a thriving industry, which, in the absence of any serious regulations, has led to a host of dodgy practices such as unregulated surrogacy or the clandestine business of selling eggs and sperm to infertility clinics that are later passed off as the patients’ own”.

“One of the cases that brought surrogacy debate to the forefront in India, was that of Baby Manji – a stateless surrogate baby. The Japanese couple Ikufumi and Yuki Yamada travelled to India in late 2007 to hire a surrogate mother to bear a child for them. The doctor arranged a surrogacy contract with Pritiben Mehta, a married Indian woman with children. Dr Patel supervised the creation of an embryo from Ikufumi Yamada’s sperms and an egg harvested from an anonymous Indian woman.  The embryo was then implanted into Mehts’s womb, In June 2008, the Yamadas divorced and a month later Bany Manji was born to the surrogate mother.  Although Ikufami wanted to raise the child, his ex wife did not. Suddenly Baby Manji had three mothers yet legally she had none. Both the parentage and the nationality of Baby Manji were impossible to determine under existing definitions of family and citizenship under Indian and Japanese Law.  Finally, after 25 days, the custody was given to the 74 year old grandmother. The case of Baby Manji illustrates the complexity and challenges faced by institution in the face of emerging technologies”.

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