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Draft surrogacy bill ready for NLA; ministry wants public input

Medical Council panel to investigate baby Gammy case and the two doctors involved

THE National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday approved a draft law on surrogacy to be submitted to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), but the Public Health Ministry urged authorities to seek public opinion first.

Meanwhile, Medical Council of Thai-land (TMC) secretary general Dr Sam-phan Khomrit said the council would today set up a special sub-committee to probe the surrogate baby Gammy case and two doctors, which should be completed in six months.

NCPO spokeswoman Pathamaporn Rattanadilok na Phuket said the draft law on surrogacy was among 15 draft bills approved for NLA review. It was proposed by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to protect children born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) and set criminal punishments for commercial surrogacy.

The draft law said artificial insemination could be conducted on legally married women only and must receive consent from the legally married couple involved - in case a donor's sperm was used.

Eggs used in artificial insemination must not come from surrogate mothers, the draft law said.

TMC was empowered to set rules, measures and conditions about the cost of taking care of the surrogate mothers. TMC is revising its existing regulations to prohibit trading of eggs and sperm used in artificial insemination with no employment or compensation for the donors.

The surrogate mother must be a relative by blood of either member of the married couple looking to have a baby. No artificial insemination surrogacy is allowed for a couple of the same sex or an unmarried couple.

After yesterday's meeting between TMC and Department of Health Service Support (HSS), Public Health permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat said the issue was divided. For control over doctors and ART clinics, which was under the Medical Facilities Act 1998 and the TMC regulation on ART standard, TMC would call a meeting of obstetricians on August 29 to clarify issues and give practice guidelines, he said. For solutions to the problems, HSS was assigned to discuss them with related agencies including the Foreign and Interior ministries, he added.

'Case affects entire society'

Asked if the draft law was a solution, Narong urged the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to remember that this matter was sensitive and affected society as a whole. Hence there should be a public hearing and related groups' participation to see if it covered all points and whether there should be amendments, he added.

An informed source said the joint meeting agreed that the review of draft laws on surrogacy should be postponed due to a concern whether or not it covered surrogate mothers who were not blood relatives of the spouses.

In the case of a private hospital's alleged refusal to treat a surrogate mother on the verge of giving birth, resulting in the infant being put in danger, HSS deputy chief Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong said the agency would first look into the reasons and if the hospital moved her to another facility. The same applied to a case in which a surrogate mother's newborn had a cleft lip, raising the question whether the hospital treating the mother should be punished.

It was reported that an HSS representative postponed lodging a police complaint until this morning in the case of a Ploenchit clinic allegedly involved with the birth of nine surrogate babies found in a Lat Phrao condominium. Lumpini police investigator Pol Colonel Decha Phronsuwan said if the complaint based on Medical Facilities Act violations was lodged, police would summon the clinic operator and conduct another search of the clinic.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that a Japanese man Mitsutoki Shigeta, 24, allegedly involved in the surrogacy scam, had helped create a Hamburg-based application for mobile devices which was designed to monitor and automatically alert parents about the movements of their children. Shigeta reportedly held a 4-per-cent share in the company, the news report said. There was no evidence linking the app to human trafficking.

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