The family of an Indian surrogate mother from Gujarat who died in the eighth month of her pregnancy (see last week's BioEdge) has been given four times the amount she was to have been given for carrying the baby. As compensation, 10 lakh rupees (about US$18,000) will be deposited in a trust account for the two sons of 30-year-old Pramila Vaghela. A successful pregnancy would have earned her about US$4,500.
Ironically, the government English-language magazine promoting Gujarat, “The Gujarat”, currently features a promotional article on the booming surrogacy business in Anand: “Where the storks dare to fly... Bringing smiles to couples across the world via Reproductive Tourism”.
“The state has set a precedent in embracing humanist ideas by facilitating reproductive tourism which has proved to be immensely valuable. Apart from empowering the surrogates, it is bringing in a lot of revenue for the state itself, furthering its development,” writes the author.
The article features an interview with “the humble lady whose fame precedes her name”, Dr Nayana Patel, whose surrogates at the Anand Surrogacy Trust, have produced nearly 500 babies. She tries to give them some domestic skills and education during the course of their pregnancy.
However, she had little sympathy for Pramila Vaghela, who died in an unrelated clinic in Ahmedabad. She told Express India:
“At present, the contracts signed between the surrogate mother and the couple (whose baby she is carrying) does not talk of any compensation in case of death of the surrogate mother. Those who agree to become surrogates are told well in advance about the complications involved in pregnancy.”
What about life insurance? Dr Patel acknowledges that it is difficult to find insurers willing to insure pregnant women, but a few of her surrogates had insured themselves for about US$3,600.
Surrogacy has its critics in India. “Many women who become surrogates are poor and unaware of the possible medical complications. In a country where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world and there are few reproductive rights, unregulated surrogacy could be disastrous, rather than empowering,” comments an editorial in the Indian Express.