Saturday, July 15, 2017

Third party reproduction

This post conforms to the blog rules.About a year ago, a gestational carrier of twins was admitted to our antepartum wing. Her condition required a long-term stay and she was not in her home state. To make matters more complicated, the presenting twin was not vertex. There was heated disagreement between the intended parents and the gestational carrier about mode of delivery because my attendings recommended a cesarean section for the twins. The carrier did not want a C-section. The physicians' hands were tied: we couldn't do a C-section on a non-consenting woman without committing assault and battery. But the agreement signed (while not designed for this state) did specify that the gestational carrier was to comply with physician recommendations on mode of delivery.

To translate into colloquial terms: about a year ago, a surrogate carrying twins for a gay couple came to our hospital while out of her home state. Because the first twin was not head-down and for a few other reasons, my attendings recommended a C-section for delivery. There was a painful, days-long disagreement between the surrogate and the couple, because the surrogate didn't want to have a surgery. We couldn't do a C-section without the surrogate's consent, but the contract signed by the surrogate and the couple said we should have been able to. ("Surrogate" is not a term preferred by the ASRM or third party reproduction lawyers.)

The ethics committee was, as I recall, rather unhelpful. No member of the healthcare team ever saw the agreement signed between the intended mothers and the gestational carrier. All residents whose names were not already in the chart were encouraged not to open the chart or see the patient out of concern for legal repercussions. The intended mothers of the children became rather forceful, asking that the healthcare team discuss matters with them before discussing them with the patient and lurking around the floor to catch any healthcare providers who might be discussing the case of their children. When it once appeared that the twins might suffer some adverse neurologic outcomes because of the disagreement, one of the mothers stated she did not want the child if there was brain damage.

All of this was a rather unpleasant ethical case that ended as well as it could, since the gestational carrier agreed to a C-section eventually and both babies were born. I have many dissatisfied feelings about the way all five people's lives changed during this pregnancy episode. I began to wonder whether the true nature of things (a contract about goods belonging to the adults) came out in the unpleasantness.

Recently my program has been adding more IVF experience for us. A few months ago I drove out to the IVF clinic of the new professor we'll be working with. As luck would have it, there wasn't much on the schedule and I didn't have to explain much. Although I've written about being "inside IVF" before, this one afternoon included actual experience of ARTs (two IUIs and an embryo transfer). Since I know how these procedures are done, in a way it wasn't earth shattering. But in another way, it was painful. By the end of the morning I felt nauseous and had to talk aloud with the Lord in the car about the experience.

Unfortunately, this isn't the end of this topic. I haven't covered it much on my blog, as I've mostly focused on contraception and sterilization. But now that I'm becoming a third year resident, who will spend two consecutive months on the REI service, it will become a topic of much more discussion.