Meg and Bob welcomed to our lives and hearts Tobias Jai, born 29 June 2010, New Delhi India. On 25 June, 2012 our daughter Mishali was born - we are doubly blessed. Our eternal gratitude to our surrogates Rani and Mrs M. We had tried with two international donors, and two clinics before achieving success with the birth of our son Toby in 2010.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Illegal purchase of sperm, eggs and surrogacy services leads to 27 charges against Canadian fertility company and CEO
Innocent until proven guilty, perhaps time to review fertility laws Canada, I am sure Canadian women have the intelligence to decide whether to become surrogates and egg donors or not. Hope they go easy on Leia, or at least charge every fertility clinic that pays to bring in US egg donors. $8000 in expenses? How do they get away with that??!!
http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/02/15/illegal-purchase-of-sperm-eggs-and-surrogacy-services-leads-to-27-charges-against-canadian-fertility-company-and-ceo/ For nine years, the criminal law in Canada has prohibited anyone from buying human eggs or sperm or the services of a surrogate mother.
For just as long, it has been common knowledge in the fertility-treatment field — and easily confirmed by anyone with Internet access — that such commercial transactions routinely take place, conveniently free of enforcement action.
That all changed Friday, with news that an Ontario surrogacy consultant and her company had been charged with 27 offences under both assisted-reproduction legislation and the Criminal Code, capping a groundbreaking, year-long investigation.
The charges laid by RCMP investigators against Leia Picard and her Canadian Fertility Consultants (CFC) in Brighton, Ont. — the firm also has a branch in Comox, B.C. — stunned the thriving assisted-reproduction industry, while also raising questions about whether the neglected legislation itself is even needed. Critics applauded what they considered long-overdue action.
Handout / Canadian Fertility ConsultantsLeia Picard, CEO of Canadian Fertility Consulting
Meanwhile, some of the parents who have worked with CFC in the past will undoubtedly be feeling anxious, said Dr. Matt Gysler, president of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.
“Imagine the families who have children through that agency, who are now sitting at home and wondering if their names appear in those records,” he said. “I’m sure some will think ‘Is someone going to knock on my door and take my baby away?’ Not that that is actually in the law, but the hardship these people must be going through is really tragic.”
For what her firm’s web site describes as a ‘‘fixed price,’’ Ms. Picard helps parents find a surrogate mother to carry their child and sometimes arranges for a donor to provide eggs, among other services. A handful of such agents in Canada bring together wombs-for-loan and would-be parents who are sometimes located continents apart.
The RCMP charged her Thursday with five counts of buying or offering to buy sperm or eggs, three counts of buying or offering to buy the services of a surrogate mother, and three of taking money to arrange such services.
As well as those alleged offences under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, she was charged with four counts of forgery under the Criminal Code, the force announced Friday morning.
Her company also faces eight similar counts under the reproduction act and four forgery charges.
The law allows sperm and egg donors and surrogates to be paid only reasonable expenses for their trouble, not commercial fees.
Cpl. Cathie Glenn, an RCMP spokeswoman, said she could offer no details of the alleged transgressions.
Ms. Picard had had dealings in the past with Hilary Neiman, a U.S. lawyer sent to jail in that country’s infamous “baby-selling” case, where surrogates were impregnated and the resulting babies auctioned off for as much as $150,000. Cpl. Glenn said she could not comment on whether the charges against the Canadian have anything to do with that case.
A fertility lawyer who works with Ms. Picard has said the consultant did know Ms. Neiman, but had no idea about the baby-selling scheme.
Ms. Picard was not available for comment but her lawyer, Toronto-based Frank Addario, said his client and the “dozens and dozens” of supporters who sent him emails Friday are deeply dismayed with the development.
The law is bewildering and its enforcement is uneven
“The law is bewildering and its enforcement is uneven,” he said. “She was not offered an opportunity to tell her side of the story before they made the decision to lay charges. So, we will just have to settle the issues in court.”
The investigation started after allegations were forwarded in September, 2011, to Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, a federal regulatory agency that was actually shut down last year. The agency forwarded the tips to the RCMP, said Cpl. Glenn.
Sally Rhoads-Heinrich, whose company, Surrogacy in Canada Online, offers a similar service, said she had assumed the investigation had fizzled out, and is now worried about the impact the prosecution will have on companies like hers.
Consultants such as CFC help vulnerable parents navigate the emotional and complicated process of surrogacy motherhood without being exploited, she said.
“It’s a really sad day for Canadians, and for the babies that won’t be born,” said Ms Rhoads-Heirich of the charges. “If we have to cease working, it means they’re on their own and more subject to being taken advantage of … They’re just left with Kijiji and Craigslist.”
Meanwhile, fertility clinics are already bringing as many as 20 American women a month to Canada and paying them about $8,000 for eggs, taking advantage of what they considered a loophole in the law that bars such payment to Canadians, she said.
A B.C. woman who commissioned Ms. Picard to arrange a surrogate for her three years ago said Friday she is “really surprised” at the charges. She said she paid her surrogate only expenses, for which she was told there were receipts.
“To me, [Ms. Picard] has always been honest,” said Kate, who asked that her last name not be used.
Two egg donors who said they had been recruited by CFC described to the National Post last year how they were paid $5,000 for their contribution. Though the money was supposed to cover expenses, one of the women, a university student, said she had no obvious costs, while the other said the payment helped her deal with financial troubles.
The Assisted Human Reproduction Act came into force in 2004, the result of a high-profile Royal Commission on reproductive technology. Its history has been rocky from the start.
The agency set up to enforce the law was often criticized for being ineffective; it blamed the lack of specific regulations, which the government said was because of a constitutional challenge of the law. That case eventually led to much of the Act being effectively quashed by the Supreme Court in 2010, leaving the ban on commercial purchase of eggs, sperm and surrogacy services as one of the few surviving provisions.
There has nevertheless been widespread evidence of exactly that kind of commercial trade through the years.
The charges against CFC are a positive development, though it is in some ways unfair to single out Ms. Picard when others are likely following similar practices, said Diane Allen of Infertility Awareness, a long-time watchdog of the industry.
“Some things, including human life, should just not be for sale,” said Ms. Allen. Paying people to donate sperm and eggs — or use of their uterus — always runs the risk of exploiting poor or otherwise disadvantaged individuals, she added.
Juliet Guichon, a bioethicist at the University of Calgary and critic of lax federal oversight of the business, said she hoped the case would be the “tip of the iceberg” of more law enforcement interest in the field.
“The very fact that finally charges have been laid will send a strong signal to others,” said Prof. Guichon, editor of a just-published book about sperm-donor children.
Dr. Gysler said his clinic in Mississauga, Ont., called ISIS, has always stuck to the letter of the law, but acknowledged he has heard “rumours” that other physicians working in the field have allowed commercial transactions to take place in their cases.
Some fertility lawyers, in fact, advise their clients they need not worry about the law, he said.
Still, Dr. Gysler said he personally would like to see the legislation changed to allow reasonable compensation for egg and sperm donors and surrogates, as is permitted in the United States.
“It’s a law designed to drive things underground or across the border.”