High Court rules that UK gestational surrogate can keep the baby – where did it go wrong?

A UK surrogacy arrangement went badly wrong resulting in High Court judge Ms Justice Russell ruling that a baby boy should remain living with the gestational surrogate who carried him.  

It is a sad tale bringing to light a surrogacy match made on Facebook, an ill-considered surrogacy agreement signed at a motorway service station between people who had just met, a vulnerable young surrogate with learning difficulties, a deception about a miscarriage which never happened, and a baby not handed over.  As the judge said: ““This unregulated form of surrogacy means that there are on the one side vulnerable surrogates, and on the other commissioning parents who are legally unprotected from unpredictable outcomes“.

The case highlights the risks for everyone where informal surrogacy arrangements are made without strong foundations. The essentials of all surrogacy arrangements are ensuring that everyone is well-informed and confident about what is involved; that everyone is completely supported and have guidance from those around them and there are organisations that exist to help them avoid these kinds of pitfalls.  Guidance is available through counsellors, legal advice, medical advice, back ground checks and ongoing discussions between everyone as well as having the expert support of organisations like Brilliant Beginnings. 

Having strong foundations of trust and open communication is paramount and key to the way Brilliant Beginnings works.  We match on a personal basis so surrogates and intended parents form a strong relationship based on honesty, friendship, mutual trust and open communication, providing a solid bedrock for their journey. We match people who have similar views on the important aspects of surrogacy and support them fully throughout the whole process, from helping to work out logistics for treatment to offering emotional and practical support and making sure that all the pieces of the puzzle are talked through in advance to avoid surprises along the way. 

Disputed UK surrogacy cases are incredibly rare.  There have been only three other disputed surrogacy cases in UK legal history, and the overwhelming majority of arrangements (including ‘independent’ surrogacies) are positive stories of fulfilment for all.  At Brilliant Beginnings we firmly believe that well-managed surrogacy involves mutually respectful and equally balanced arrangements, where each party decides on a free and informed basis to proceed and there is clarity about everyone’s expectations.  This case is a rare exception but sadly underlines the tragedy of what can happen with lack of preparation and a cohesive relationship.  It need not happen at all and we want to ensure that the wonderful journeys that so many people realise to create their families continues unblemished.

There is more information about the detail of the case on the Natalie Gamble Associates blog at http://www.nataliegambleassociates.co.uk/blog/2016/07/01/high-court-rules-baby-should-stay-with-surrogate-after-facebook-surrogacy-arrangement-ends-in-bitter-dispute/

We have started an online petition calling for surrogacy reform so the law supports everyone in surrogacy arrangements better.  Please sign at: https://www.change.org/p/uk-government-it-s-time-to-review-uk-surrogacy-law