Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Intended Parents Lose Custody of Twins to Surrogate

This past week The New York Times ran an article on the Michigan surrogate who gave birth to the twins she later sued for custody -- and won.

Why didn't the IVF specialist at IVF Michigan insist on a legal contract between the parents and the surrogate with an experienced assisted reproduction attorney? An experienced ART attorney would have advised the couple NOT to work with a surrogate from the state of Michigan. Well, not unless they were comfortable in taking the risk of losing their children, which they did.

All IVF Centers that I work with will not do a transfer of embryos on a surrogate without legal clearance from an experienced ART attorney and this case clearly illustrates why. Intent to parent controls in California, the state where I practice, so this type of case typically does not happen here.

And why is the Intended Mother unfit to care for her children? She has not had a schizophrenic episode, in what, eight years? I was speaking with a former surrogate today and she said, "good for the Intended Mother in not wanting to harm herself or her unborn children by getting pregnant while on medication." Are you unfit to parent solely based on the fact that you have been diagnosed with a mental illness?

I cannot stress enough the importance of working with an experienced ART attorney, especially when there is no biological link between either or both parents. Cases like these should not be happening. Creating your family using a third party is expensive, but if you pass on or forget to get an attorney, the price you may pay could be much, much higher.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Right to Have 11 Children Defended

I tweeted about this the other day but since Octomom issues like this don't go away and need to be revisited. First, it should be clarified that this couple's children were not conceived using in vitro fertilization but rather ovulation induction where the woman is stimulated using either Clomid or injectable medications and either has intercourse with her husband or her physician performs an IUI (intrauterine insemination). In my research induction usually causes more multiples than in vitro. Yes, I know Nadya Suluman had her eight children with IVF but she really and truly is not the norm.

Most IVF physicians that I work with think a failure during an assisted reproduction cycle is when the patient either doesn't get pregnant or she gets pregnant with more than twins.

Further, this couple has two children previously, two sets of quads and now twins (one child did not survive). IVF is a much more expensive procedure and if ovulation induction is working, and it certainly has for this couple, no doctor is going to recommend a much more expensive and invasive procedure when it is not necessary.

I know it is a tough subject, especially for all of you struggling to have one child. The knife couldn't go in far enough or deep enough. Contact me if you want to talk or scream or cry. I'll listen.

What do you think? Should this couple have had 11 children using assisted reproduction techniques?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ontario Experts Recommend IVF for All Except Women Over 42

The expert panel recommended IVF for all including same-sex couples and singles, but not for women over the age of 42. I have a friend who is 42 years old and pregnant (yes, naturally) and we all know a friend or a friend of a friend who got pregnant at 42 or older so why would the Canadian panel pick that age?

It's simple, really. Egg donation is virtually non-existent in Canada because egg donors cannot be paid and they cannot be anonymous. That makes it very difficult for women to find a donor in their own country. And IVF is funded by the national health care system so the chances of IVF working for a 42 year old woman are not great.

I can hear you now: what about the women in their 40s who are in excellent health? They work out, take great care of themselves and look 10 years younger. It doesn't matter with eggs. Forty-two-year-old eggs are old, especially when you compare them to a 22 year old woman. It doesn't matter how many lunges you do.

What say you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tunisian Teacher Not Pregnant with 12 Babies

Leave it to the AP to get it right: It appears that the Tunisian women is not pregnant with 12 babies (maybe we have learned something from Octomom after all)! The story did seem "out-there" but after Octomom, you just never know what is possible. I even waited a day to post the story to see if it was actually true.

The AP is reporting that the woman could be experiencing a "phantom pregnancy," where a woman believes she is pregnant and does experience pregnancy symptoms, such as a swollen abdomen, morning sickness, etc. The condition is rare.

Feel free to comment. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

12 Babies? Did we learn nothing from Octomom Nadya Suleman

The Sun reported this week that a teacher in Tunisia is pregnant with 6 boys and 6 girls and she has vowed to carry them all to term. Did we learn nothing from the tragedy that is Octomom Nadya Suleman?

Those babies will be lucky if they make it 30 weeks -- and survive. Even if they all survive, most likely some if not all of those babies will have multiple health problems that may last a lifetime. While fertility treatments of some kind were used, at this point no one knows if in vitro fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination (IUI) was the procedure used.

As in the case of Nadya Suleman, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the doctor involved. He or she is the one controlling the treatment; however, it is unlikely that he or she will ever have to take any responsibility, either financial or emotional, for the outcome.

What say you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How Old is Too Old?

The world's oldest mother died this past week, leaving twin boys. She was 69 years old. I think, along with most of the world, that she was too old to conceive. There is now a 72 year old woman who would like to become a mother.

I feel very strongly and even passionately that I am not in a position to judge. Who am I to say if that person will be a good parent. Oftentimes, my clients are taking hormones and are stressed because they so desperately want a child. They have paid thousand of dollars and the majority of them have suffered, mostly without help, and grieved over not having a child. I do not usually see them at the best time in their life when I meet to review the contract.

But, 66 years and 72 years is too old. There is a reasons (too many to into for this post) why women give birth at a much younger age. First and foremost, it's the children that come first and now those children are left without the only parent they have ever known. That is the tragedy.

What do you think? How old is too old to become a mother?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So, What About Michael Jackson's Kids?

I thought since this issue was all over the web in the last couple of weeks that most people understood the issues involved, but just last week a neighbor came up to me and asked me that very question: So, what about Michael Jackson's kids?. I knew where he was going so I replied, just as I did for Tamera H. Bennett at her blog, Bennett Law Office, that in California, it doesn't matter if Michael used a sperm donor an egg donor and a surrogate for all of his children. Intent controls in California and as long as he had the intent to parent, and the third parties did not, he is the father. Of course, he would also have a judgment of parentage, signed and certified by the court, but my neighbor was satisfied with my response so he moved on to his next question.

What about Rowe?

Now, that's entirely different, as she is the legal mother of his two older children, Prince and Paris. Her name is on the birth certificate and remains so, so under CA law, she could have visitation and custody rights to them. The hearing is scheduled for July 20 and I will be following the case closely.

I do hope the judge who hears the matter takes into consideration the fact that the youngest child, Blanket, has never been separated from his two older siblings and to tear them apart when they have lost their father and the only home they have known, would, in my opinion, be very detrimental.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Surrogacy and Medi-Cal Insurance

This past week I received a telephone call from a surrogate who wanted to know if it was legal for her to use her insurance for her surrogacy. She and the Intended Parent were using a contract that he found on the Internet. The surrogate seemed to think this was okay because he is attending law school so he is an attorney. I explained to her that until he passed the Bar and obtains his license, he is not an attorney. "Oh" and then "well" was her response.

She then told me that her husband is in construction so they are on Medi-Cal (the state of California's low-income insurance plan) so they are going to have two contracts. One that states that the Surrogate is not receiving a fee, which they will send to Medi-Cal as proof that she is doing the surrogacy for no fee and then an amendment that states the fees she will be receiving. She then asked "Is that legal?"

"No. That is insurance fraud and if the insurance company that administers your plan finds out you and your family will lose your insurance, at the very least." I then told her to hire an attorney to protect herself and that if she wants to hire me I would charge more than my going rate because a contract found off the Internet is going to require a lot of work. I also told her to not use her Medi-Cal insurance and that the Intended Parent needs to purchase her insurance to cover the surrogate pregnancy. Frankly, I think she somehow expected me to say something different.

Insurance companies are very, very serious about insurance fraud, especially regarding surrogacy. Medi-Cal insurance does not usually have a surrogacy exclusion so as long as the surrogacy is truly altruistic and there is no compensation paid to the surrogate and the insurance does not exclude a surrogate pregnancy, it is appropriate to use it. But, absolutely not in this surrogate's case. I wish her the best of luck as I'm afraid she's going to need it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

An Update on Embryo Donation

What do you do with your embryos? It's a dilemma that many couples and individuals who have gone through IVF treatment face, as there is an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 cryopreserved embryos in the United States alone. You are done having your own children and you are not sure what to do with the embryos you have cryopreserved at your IVF center. As the years go on, you are charged more each year to maintain them. It is a very real dilemma for a lot of people.

Embryo donation is a viable option and it has received more press with the passage of the "Option of Adoption Act," which will take effect July 1, 2009 in the state of Georgia. Under the new law, "A child born to a recipient intended parent as the result of embryo relinquishment ... shall be presumed to be the legal child of the recipient intended parent," the new law states. HB 388 does not require the recipients to be a married heterosexual couple, which I was afraid of, but they do require that all parties sign an agreement, which is what I do for my embryo donation clients.

Most people believe that the difference between an embryo adoption and a donation is that the adoption is open and the donation is anonymous, which is not true. I have drafted or reviewed embryo donation contracts where the recipient and donor are known to each other and have worked on contracts where they are not. It is all up to the parties involved as to how that is handled.

With the economy still an issue, there are couples that need a third party to help them create their family, but they simply cannot afford it. And, there are thousands of couples with excess embryos cryopreserved for years. It's a very personal decision, but for those who decide to donate, the potential for joy is endless.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Extraordinary Conceptions extends a helping hand to Surrogenesis, Michael Charles Holding Company Clients

If you are an Intended Parent and you have lost money with the disappearance of the Michael Charles Holding Company and Surrogenesis, Extraordinary Conceptions, LLC would like to offer a helping hand by discounting your Egg Donation and Surrogacy Cycle. We know how hard you have worked and how many years you have suffered and to have a company like Surrogenesis give you false hope that your dreams of having a child will come true, only to steal your life savings blind is appalling.

In case you haven’t heard, escrow company Michael Charles Holding Company has shut its doors, affecting more that 30 Intended Parents and taking off with 1,000,000 in client trust funds. While MCHC stated on their website that they were licensed and bonded, it has now come to light that they might be neither. The FBI is investigating MCHC and if you have any information about MCHC or Surrogenesis, please contact Extraordinary Conceptions and we will get you in touch with Sterling Johnson, who is tirelessly working to see if any money can be recovered for all those affected. However, as Sterling pointed out, even if any money can be recovered, it will be too late to meet your immediate financial needs.

Tonya Collins, President and CEO of Surrogenesis, is also Agent for Service for Michael Charles Holding Company and it is unclear if she had an ownership interest in the company. However, we at Extraordinary Conceptions and others in the industry are extremely doubtful that Tonya will emerge from this heartbreaking mess as an inocent victim.

Please contact Mario Caballero, the Executive Director of Extraordinary Conceptions, at, to speak to him about your cycle and the discount program for those affected by the Michael Charles Holding Company and Surrogenesis.

My heart goes out to all those affected. Dreams have been shattered and that is not an understatement. Surrogates are left without insurance while pregnant as bills were not paid. Donors have been left without payment after undergoing weeks of shots and an egg retrieval. And Intended Parents have lost their life savings, and in some cases, money they don’t have as most have to borrow money to afford treatment.

For those looking to work with an agency, please be careful and choose wisely. Speak to therapists in the industry and IVF physicians. Get personal recommendations. Do not rely on information online. You do not know who is posting that information and why. Anyone can say anything about an agency, and you can bet that Tonya Collins and Surrogenesis had a lot of people saying great things about her and her agency.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Samuel Wood, MD on “Octuplet Mess”

A must-read blog post from Samuel Wood, MD, who is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and has been practicing in this field for 15 years, on the octuplets. He puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the physician and has contacted the medical board to investigate the situation.

He not only shows leadership in contacting the medical board, but also compassion as he urges all of us to give the children our support, as they are innocent.

I highly encourage you to read his full post as he covers the issues surrounding the pregnancy and birth of the octuplets thoroughly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Children of Sperm and Egg Donors Seek Information

An article by Cheryl Miller posted today at raised questions on how the information should be handled, by whom and how much. In "Who's Your Daddy?" Cheryl discusses the plight of one young woman who has a rare stomach disorder. She is in her 20s when records were either destroyed or not kept at all. All she knows is that the sperm donor is of Scandinavian descent. She doesn't want to meet him, but she would desperately like medical information.

Today, most agencies and IVF centers that have their own in-house donor program keep detailed medical and biographical information on their donors. However, the industry is pressing for a national donor registry. I am a member of the American Bar Association's section on Reproduction and the Law and I can tell you that at the last meeting this issue was discussed. It is not going to go away, but I do believe that rather than have the government control and run it, those in the industry should create and control the registry, as the article proposed, with a board of directors as well as guidelines.

If not, we could have a situation like the UK, where couples wait two years, or longer, for a sperm or egg donor because donors cannot receive compensation and cannot be anonymous. One UK woman was able to work with a donor from the United States, but only on apeal from the government and only because her husband has ties to the United States.

I encourage you to read the article as it is in-depth, well-researched and proposes some solutions to this issue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parents Via Egg Donation or, “Marna’s Friends”

Marna Gatlin is without doubt a wonderful woman who generously gives her time for something she feels passionately about: egg donation. Because of her passion and devotion to the group she now runs, Parents Via Egg Donation, she was featured in today’s The Oregonian.

I met her this past fall in San Francisco at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and she was every bit the woman I imagined her to be: supportive, caring, bright, passionate and compassionate. Her organization is not affiliated with any agency, including this one, and she and her organization are a wealth of information for those going through egg donation, no matter where you are in the process.

I tried an egg donation cycle (which failed because I needed a surrogate not a donor, but that’s a whole other story) and I remember going through the transfer conflicted about what to tell the child if he or she was born. My cycle was in 1999 and there was nowhere I could turn to for support or guidance, just like Marna. Now men and woman have an organization and a support system for their many questions and concerns — and a shoulder to cry on when they learn the news that they will need a donor to have their child.

If you are going through egg donation or even if you have already gone through the process, I encourage you to seek out Marna and become one of her friends at Parents Via Egg Donation.

Friday, January 09, 2009

First UK Baby Born Free of Cancer Gene

While this has been done in the United States, the first baby was born in the UK free of the breast cancer gene, BRCA1, which would have meant that the baby girl had an 80 percent chance of contracting breast cancer. I know this is a sensitive issue for some and there are arguments that doctors should not play God and create super babies, but when there is a fatal disease that can be prevented, I do not think that is playing God. In this case, this couple has eradicated a potentially fatal disease from their family. This girl’s father’s grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have all been diagnosed with the disease.

Using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PDG), infertility specialist Dr. Paul Serhal was able to remove a cell from the developing embryo and test it for the gene mutation. Carrying this gene also means that the baby girl could have had a 50 percent increase in contracting ovarian cancer.

Click here for more on the first UK baby born free of BRCA1.

Assisted Reproduction and Autism

It’s only speculation now that environmental factors, including assisted reproduction technologies, have contributed to the high increase in the number of children diagnosed with Autism. Education and awareness of Austin have been key to the increasing diagnosis in children. The study, by Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, chief of the division of environmental and occupational health at the University of California, Davis, clearly demonstrated that they increase in reported cases is very real. While most of the research being conducted is genetic based, the author says that more research should be done on environmental factors, including assisted reproduction technologies, which have only become available in the past 30 years.

Before I cause panic, I need to let you know that assisted reproduction was not the only environmental factor considered by the author of the study. Others included shampoos, soaps, and medications.