Mother Forces 14-year-old Adopted Daughter to Become Surrogate

Barrister

“Wicked” is how a judge described an American woman living in Britain, who enlisted her 14-year-old adopted daughter as her surrogate, so she could have a fourth child.

The unnamed woman and her husband adopted two children from overseas and later after the coupled divorced, she adopted a third child.

She then wished to adopt a fourth child, but her application to an international adoption agency was rejected leading her to initiate Plan B, which was a scheme to impregnate her 14-year-old adopted daughter in order that she might have the fourth child she longed for.

The young girl was surprised at the mother’s request but was grateful that she had been adopted and believed that her mother would “love her more” if she acceded to her request.

With sperm purchased by her mother from Cryos international in Denmark, the 14-year-old began injecting herself, with no immediate success and one miscarriage. Finally, at the age of 17 the young girl became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at a local hospital.

It was there that midwives noticed that the new mother’s mother was unusually rude and demanding  with her daughter, at one point telling her that she could not breastfeed the child as she did not want any “bonding” to occur.

Overhearing this statement, the hospital contacted child protection authorities who interviewed the new mom and removed her, her baby and her siblings from her mother’s home.

The investigation also revealed that the British woman had administered douches containing vinegar and either lemon or lime juice to her daughter, because she believed this would ensure that the new baby was a girl.

The woman had isolated the children, home-schooling them and disallowing her former husband from having contact with them. Apparently, the authorities had been alerted to the unusual circumstances, but on four separate occasions determined there were no child protection issues.

In his judgment, Judge Peter Jackson described the mother as having “an exceptionally forceful personality,” and expressed “an abiding sense of disbelief that a parent could behave in such a wicked and selfish way towards a vulnerable child.”

The woman was sentenced to a five-year prison term.

After the case became public, questions were raised about the ease in which the woman was able to purchase sperm, a matter that was also noted by the judge who said, “there [are] no effective checks on a person’s ability to obtain sperm from Cryos.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Making Babies Is a Tricky Business

DSC01152_2 (2)_2With the extraordinary science that benefits childless couples and the growing popularity of reproductive technologies, the prediction from early naysayers that baby-making would create criminal, social and ethical problems can no longer be ignored.

Public awareness of the foibles of procedures such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and anonymous sperm donation began with the news that a California woman, Nadya Suleman, gave birth to eight children via in vitro fertilization in 2009. Twelve embryos had been implanted, apparently at her request.

Ms. Suleman’s octuplets joined her already large family of six children, also born through in vitro fertilization. That she was a single mother with limited financial resources and was eventually compelled to work as a stripper and a nude model further rankled critics who denounced her physician, Dr. Michael Kamrava, who later lost his medical license.

The latest scandal in the baby-making industry involves a home-grown business called Canadian Fertility Consultants, with offices in British Columbia and Ontario, whose CEO, Leia Picard, has been charged with 27 criminal offences including purchasing sperm and egg from a donor and paying a surrogate to carry a baby for a client.

Under Canadian law it is illegal to pay sperm or egg donors and surrogates are only allowed to be paid for their reasonable expenses. While limited information has been released by the RCMP, it has been reported that two women who donated eggs were paid $5000.00 each.

Ms. Picard has also been charged with four counts of forgery in relation to allegations that her clients received false profiles of two of her sperm donors and two potential surrogate mothers.

Canada’s legislation has been in force for almost nine years, but this appears to be the first time that charges have resulted from a breach of the law, with related criminal charges.

There is speculation that Ms. Picard’s present legal problems arise from her purely innocent interaction with Maryland lawyer Hilary Nieman, who ran a surrogacy business with California lawyer, Theresa Erickson, that later proved to be anything but altruistic.

Under a unique California law, a woman can enter into a surrogacy agreement with prospective parents, but the agreement must be signed and finalized prior to the fertilization of the surrogate. Where there is a surrogacy agreement, the prospective parents do not need to go through an adoption to become the child’s legal parents as the child’s birth certificate will record the names of the prospective parents, not the surrogate’s name.

Lawyers Nieman and Erickson both specialized in reproductive technology law. Working together, they paid American women an average of $40,000 to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos. This was necessary because no doctor in California would do the in vitro procedure under the circumstances presented by the surrogates.

The lawyers got around the requirement for an executed agreement prior to fertilization by submitting forged documents to the Court which attested to the agreement being signed as required by the law.

Ms. Erickson with Hilary Nieman’s help, accumulated a stable of new-born babies ready to be sold to unsuspecting couples for $100,000 to $150,000 each.

In the twelfth week of their pregnancy the women, referred to as “gestational carriers”, flew back to the United States where the lawyers would find a couple who were told that a surrogacy agreement with another couple had fallen through after the couple backed out.

For couples who had tried numerous procedures over many years without the blessing of a child, the prospects of a new-born baby was like winning the lottery.

Erickson and Nieman, both plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy, involving the sale of twelve babies. Although lawyers for the State and Ms. Nieman agreed to a plea bargain of nine months of home confinement, the Court would have no part of that and sentenced Nieman to five months in federal prison and seven months of home confinement. She was also order to pay back profits of $133,000 and was later disbarred.

We now await full particulars of the charges against Ms. Picard, but payments of several thousand dollars to egg donors hardly seems worth the cost of the RCMP’s year-long investigation. Allegations of forgery, however, puts an entirely different spin on the agency’s practices.

Ms. Picard says she will vigourously defend against the charges and is inviting donations to her legal fund.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Order of Canada Gynecologist Makes Multiple Insemination Blunders

BarristerWhile advances in reproductive technology have assisted thousands of child-barren couples to start their own families, it was predictable that along with the joys of parenthood would come the frailties inherent in the emergence of surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation, in vitro fertilization, and artificial insemination.

Our courts have already grappled with the issue of children who are psychologically scarred because their biological fathers are anonymous sperm donors, a circumstance that prevents them from knowing their complete genetic and medical history, leading to a lack of personal identity and a profound sense of loss.

A British Columbia Supreme Court decision in 2011 (Pratten v. British Columbia 2011 BCSC 656) which relied on the Canadian Charter of Rights, intended to put an end to the practice of anonymous sperm donation, however, it was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2012, (2012 BCCA 480) who ruled that the Charter did not give a person a constitutional right to “know one’s past”.

The implantation of multiple embryos has also raised significant ethical issues as illustrated by the furor fueled by California’s Octomom, Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to healthy octuplets through in vitro fertilization, siblings to her already large family of six children.

The practice of surrogacy has also left a trail of heartbreak, whether it be parents who have been duped by surrogates, or women exploited for their ability to carry a child to term.

The most recent scandal in the baby-making business is Order of Canada recipient Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin of Ottawa, who continued to sloppily inject his patients with the wrong sperm, despite being admonished by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1995 when he failed to use his patient’s husband’s sperm to impregnate her, a fact revealed through DNA testing.

Regrettably, his promises to take steps to ensure no future errors did not protect further victims. In 2010 he was sued by Trudy Moore and Matthew Guest, when they learned their surrogate, Ms. Moore’s sister, did not receive Mr. Guest’s sperm in the 2007 insemination. As well, Jacqueline Slinn learned that her child’s father was not the sperm donor she had selected.

In both actions the plaintiffs sought orders that Dr. Barwin submit to a blood test to determine if he was the father of the children. These cases were settled out of court with the standard confidentiality provisions included.

Last week a disciplinary panel accepted Dr. Barwin’s admission that he committed the errors alleged in cases that involved five women. Dr. William King, chair of the panel, remarked:
“It is hard to imagine a more fundamental error…than failure to impregnate the right woman with the right sperm.”

Despite the seriousness of Dr. Barwin’s blunders his punishment was far from severe: a two-month suspension from the practice of medicine and costs of $3,600.00. Perhaps his remorse and explanation of the errors justified the outcome? Hardly. He could not (or would not?) explain how the mistakes were made and his so-called “apology” was far from convincing. He said “I regret I’ve caused my patients any difficulty.”

The question is: how many more of Dr. Barwin’s patients wrongly presume they know who the father of their child is?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Mature Couple Lose Their Baby Because They are Too Old


In a story out of Turin, Italy, 70-year old father, Luigi De Ambrosis and his 57-year old wife, Gabriella, lost their 18-month old baby girl, Viola, after an Italian court ordered the child be taken into care because her parents were too old.

After years of futile attempts to have children and two failed adoption applications, Luigi and Gabriella travelled overseas for fertility treatments.

In Italy the age limit for fertility treatment is 43 years old, a law that was introduced after several Italian women in their 50’s and 60’s had children through artificial insemination, conduct that angered the Catholic Church.

The couple protested that after successful careers as a former mayor and a librarian, they had the means and the health to take care of their child, but to no avail.

The Court was scathing in its criticism of the De Ambrosis’ saying their baby was the “fruit of a distorted application of the opportunities offered by advances in genetics” and that their choice showed a “disregard for the child’s best interests”, as she would likely be orphaned at an early age or be a caregiver for her parents.

Important testimony in the case against them came from their neighbors who reported the child crying on several occasions, which the court found was evidence of an inability to care for the child.

Not surprisingly, the couple’s lawyers have filed an appeal of the decision.

This case is a reminder of why the State has no business in the bedrooms of its citizens.

Obviously the Turin judges do not subscribe to the adage that “Sixty is the new fifty”!