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Compensated transnational surrogacy in Australia: time for a comprehensive review

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Reproductive desire, domestic legal restrictions and cost have made transnational surrogacy a lucrative industry.1 Arrangements usually proceed smoothly, but ethical and legal scrutiny of this practice is ongoing. Commissioning parents have allegedly abandoned well2 and unwell3 children born to surrogates overseas. Investigations into transnational surrogacy are numerous, yet we are no closer to an answer as to whether the current status quo is acceptable.

Surrogacy involves a woman (the surrogate) undertaking a pregnancy and giving birth where another individual or couple (the commissioner[s] or intended parent[s]) will parent the child. Where the pregnancy involves the surrogate’s oocyte, it is termed genetic, partial or traditional surrogacy.4 Gestational or full surrogacy occurs when gametes from the intended social parents or a separate donor are used. Surrogacy arrangements that do not result in net financial gain for the surrogate are referred to as altruistic (or non-commercial4), although the distinction between reimbursement and payment is easily blurred. Altruistic surrogacy is rare in Australia, with only 36 live births in 2013.5 Compensated or commercial arrangements involve payment (beyond mere expenses) in exchange for services. This…

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