Monday, August 27, 2007

40 Women In Japan Apply To Be Surrogates

By Stephanie Caballero

The Yomiuri Shimbun

About 40 women in their 20s to 50s have applied to a maternity clinic in Nagano Prefecture to offer themselves as volunteers to become surrogate mothers for couples receiving infertility treatment at the facility, the clinic's director said Thursday.

The Suwa Maternity Clinic in Shimosuwamachi, Nagano Prefecture, headed by Yahiro Netsu, sent out a questionnaire to applicants to check whether their family members would consent to their surrogacy despite the potential risks involved.

Netsu reported the findings of the questionnaire Friday to a panel of the Science Council of Japan covering assisted reproductive medicine.

According to Netsu, all of the applicants had given birth before. However, since surrogate birth can endanger the life of the mother and baby and can restrict the daily activities of surrogate mothers for up to about 10 months from pregnancy to birth, even if women want to be surrogate mothers, they might face problems if they lack the support and understanding of their families. The applicants were asked to confirm whether they have husbands or children, and whether their husbands, their parents and their husbands' parents would accept any illnesses or even deaths that occurred as a result of their surrogate pregnancies with the proviso that a system of remuneration or compensation had been established.

Netsu said that while the rigorous nature of the questions might reduce the number of volunteers, there were still plenty of women who could become surrogate mothers.

"I'd like these findings to be used as a reference for the government when it discusses surrogate births. I'll interview the applicants to pick them, but as long as a surrogate birth compensation system has yet to be established, I have no intention of going ahead with surrogate births [using these women]," he said.

The clinic has helped five infertile married couples give birth using surrogates. Since the surrogates were the wives' sisters or mothers, no major problems had occurred, Netsu said.


Mukai briefs panel

A panel of the Science Council of Japan discussing assisted reproductive technology held a closed-door hearing Friday with TV personality Aki Mukai, who made a statement about surrogate birth.

The panel's hearings are open to the public in principle, making the closed-door session somewhat unusual.

The panel asked Mukai, who has twin sons born using a surrogate in the United States, to give a briefing at the panel, but Mukai said she would only brief panel members in private. The panel decided to hold a closed-door hearing in compliance with the condition set by Mukai.

Mukai has published a book about her sons. A member of staff at her office said she did not want to go public this time because she was asked to speak as a private citizen residing in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, who had taken advantage of surrogate birth and not as a TV personality.
(Aug. 25, 2007)