A judge has ruled an arrangement in which a mother acted as a surrogate for her adult son’s baby is “entirely lawful”, although she conceded that it was “unusual”. Family campaigners have called the ruling “dubious” and have asked for the law to be reviewed.
Another female relative had been due to carry the baby, which had been conceived via IVF using the man’s sperm and a donor egg, but had had to withdraw for medical reasons. His mother then stepped in to enable the man, in his mid-20s, to become a father, the Times has reported.
Although current rules stipulate that a surrogate child must be handed over to two parents, Mrs Justice Theis ruled that the man, who lives alone, can now adopt the child, a seven month old boy, as they are legally related as brothers.
“The arrangement the parties entered into is not one, as far as I am aware, that either this court or the clinic has previously encountered and although highly unusual, is entirely lawful under the relevant statutory provisions,” she said.
The family had entered into the arrangement after each individual had been given counselling and legal advice. The fertility treatment had been carried out by a fertility clinic licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Justice Theis noted. Granting adoption of the child to the father would therefore provide “legal security”, she concluded.
In a written ruling, Mrs Justice Theis further noted “All the reports describe [the man’s] care of [the baby] as being to a high standard . . . He waited until his circumstances were settled in terms of a job and home to enable him to provide the care a child would need.”
According to a background report into the case, the surrogate mother and her husband regard the child as their grandson, and would like the child to know about the circumstances of his birth. Another report also said that the father would ensure the child was made aware of his unusual birth, but found that the boy “clearly has formulated a secure attachment to the father”.
Justice Theis said that the family’s closeness was a “critical feature” of the case, adding “The strength of these familial relationships, and the consequent support they provide now and in the future, will ensure the child’s lifelong needs are met.”
However, the ruling has raised concerns. Jill Kirby, a broadcaster and writer on family issues, said: “The ethics in this case are very dubious indeed. If the HFEA considers this to be a legal procedure, there is an urgent need to look at the law again.”
And Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, told the Daily Mail: “This case throws up many concerns and worries. My greatest concern in all of this is the potential emotional damage to the child in years to come, as he tries to work out family relationships that most of us can take for granted.”