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70
Global Health and Travel November - December 2014
I
n August, media reports of an Australian couple who
allegedly abandoned their child born with down
syndrome through a Thai surrogate mother shed light
on Thailand's lax regulations regarding commercial
surrogacy, prompting the country's newly empowered
military government to take action.
The Baby Gammy scandal, as it became known in the Australian
press, reignited debate among Thailand policymakers about the
ethicality and legality of surrogacy for commercial purposes,
which had become a booming industry in Thailand.
Later that month, reports surfaced of another surrogacy scandal
involving Mitsutoki Shigeta, the 24-year-old son of Japanese
billionaire technology mogul Yasumitsu Shigeta. The younger
Shigeta had allegedly used Thai surrogates to father nearly a dozen
infants, whose births were merely weeks or months apart.
In the wake of a firestorm of negative press, Thailand's
military government announced that it was reintroducing a
2010 draft law banning commercial surrogacy arrangements
in Thailand, which would enact severe punishments for
commercial surrogacy agents and practitioners, including a fine
of 200,000 baht (US$6,200) and up to 10 years' imprisonment.
THAILAND
Thailand's military government takes action
In September, Thailand's military cabinet sent the revised
surrogacy draft law to the country's National Legislative
Assembly for review, but its approval is still pending. The
inclusion of other controversial measures in the bill, including
provisions regarding use of stem cell cells, may complicate its
passage, says Nandana Indananda, a partner at the Bangkok-
based law practice Tilleke & Gibbins, who was part of a
committee that authored the original draft law. In addition,
once fertility clinics learn more about the law's specific details,
they may become more vigilant in their attempts to block its
passage, Indananda says.
"The bill is available to the public, but it is not easy to
understand what the bill provisions are trying to say,"
Indananda says. Most practitioners, for example, believe the law
only prohibits commercial surrogacy agencies from operating.
"Only a few doctors know that [commercial surrogacy]
operations by clinics or by hospitals will be prohibited. If they
did know, they might oppose this provision and try to remove
this provision from the bill. So it might prolong the process of
enacting the law," he says.
NEW DRAFT LAW MAY SPELL THE END OF
COMMERCIAL SURROGACY IN THAILAND,
BUT SURROGACY SCANDALS WILL NOT
GREATLY IMPACT THE COUNTRY'S MEDICAL
TOURISM INDUSTRY, EXPERTS SAY
Commercial
Surrogacy
In Thailand:
In Limbo
69 Thailand Report.indd 70
23/10/2014 5:21 PM