Although the BBC’s the Moral Maze is currently on hiatus until later this fall, the most recent episode discussed the morality of surrogacy. The topic was sparked by a horrendous story discussed below.
Here is a description of the podcast from the BBC’s website.
She was paid £8850. The money would help repay the family’s debts and to go towards the education her two children. Pattaramon Chanbua never even met the Australian couple who were paying her. It’s known as “gestational surrogacy” where the host mother is implanted with an embryo. Effectively the Australian couple were paying to rent the Thai woman’s womb. In this case Pattaramon gave birth to twins. One of them, who’s been named Gammy had Down’s syndrome. It’s a terrible story that raises many uncomfortable moral and ethical dilemmas. This isn’t just a simple contractual obligation. At the heart of this there’s a child’s life. Who bears the moral responsibility when things go wrong? And is that something that can be delegated to regulation? Infertility is a grief for many thousands of couples and the trade in international surrogacy also attracts same sex partners who desperately want children. But how do we – should we – weigh their pain against the exploitation of poor women and the commodification of that greatest of gifts – the gift of life? In such emotive cases it’s perhaps too easy to rush to judgment. There’s the argument that when done properly surrogacy can enrich people’s lives, offering the childless a the chance to become parents and by putting money into the hands of surrogate women it gives them the chance to plan the future of their families in the way they see fit. If we ban it we take that opportunity out of their hands. If we regulate is that tacitly condoning a degrading a marketization of something that should not be commodified? And if we regulate womb renting, why not allow the poor to monetise other parts of their bodies? Their blood? Or perhaps a kidney? And is it the role of the state to regulate and control what people do with their bodies? Moral Maze – Presented by Michael Buerk.
Panellists: Matthew Taylor, Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy and Jill Kirby.
Witnesses: Richard Westoby, Julie Bindel, Nicola Scott and Dr. Helen Watt.