Surrogacy cases a test for watchdogs

A request to use a dead man's sperm and an application from an adopted brother and sister to make a baby have been among the dilemmas considered by the ethics committee for assisted reproductive technology.

According to the committee's annual report, it approved 18 applications for surrogacy in the year to the end of June, up from 13 the year before.

Bioethics expert Sylvia Rumball, who chairs the advisory committee on assisted reproductive technology, said she was not aware of the individual circumstances of the people using surrogate mothers to have their babies  -- but the surge in applications could show the practice was becoming "more acceptable".

"It could also mean there are more people in need of this, or that people are more aware of surrogacy as an option," Professor Rumball said.

There were twice as many applications for donations of sperm or eggs (gametes) between family members as in the previous year: nine were approved and two declined.

Nine embryo donations were approved, compared with just one the year before, though some were subject to conditions.

The application for a donation of gametes between an adopted sister and brother was declined because the guidelines prohibit donations between siblings. The definition of "sister" in the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Order includes "adopted sister".

The request to use sperm from a deceased man, which is mentioned in the annual report, was a case from the previous year. That application was declined because informed consent had not been properly collected and there were concerns for the wellbeing of any future child.

Two women gained approval to be inseminated with their dead husbands' sperm in 1999.

The Dominion Post