Ukraine’s troubled commercial surrogacy industry is in the news again. Authorities have expressed concern after reports emerged of a three-year-old surrogate child who was abandoned by her American parents after they discovered that she was both physically and mentally disabled.
The girl, known as Bridget, has spent most of the past three years in hospital and now lives in a care home for children with chronic illnesses. Bridget was very ill as a baby and her American parents responded by sending a letter to her doctors in Ukraine instructing them to discontinue her treatment. This order was not followed; Bridget survived and her health began to improve. When Bridget was two years old her parents sent another letter giving consent for her adoption -- but this document was not recognised under Ukrainian law. Bridget is now cared for by the staff of the Sonechko Children's Home in the city of Zaporizhzhya.
Nikolai Kuleba, the Ukraine’s Ombudsman for Children, said that Bridget’s is not an isolated case. He says his office is aware of a further 10 where babies born via commercial surrogacy in Ukraine have been abandoned by their foreign parents. “These are the ones that we are aware of, but I assume there are instances that we don't know about,” he said. “This is an immoral business, it does harm”.
The surrogacy agency used by Bridget’s American parents is a company called Biotexcom. In May last year, the agency’s owner, Albert Tochilovsky, was briefly placed under house arrest amidst allegations of child-trafficking, document forgery and tax avoidance, but to date no proceedings have been brought.
In an interview with the ABC, Tochilovsky denied any responsibility for Bridget’s situation. He claims a rival agency is pretending to be Biotexcom and blaming his company.
Concerns have also been raised about another surrogacy business active in the Ukraine known as Lotus Surrogacy.
Xavier Symons is deputy editor of BioEdge
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