- Mother helped her son become a father by carrying his child as a surrogate
- Clinic arranged the woman's pregnancy using donor egg and son's sperm
- Offered to have baby after her son's plans for IVF child with another female relative collapsed
- The procedure, revealed in the High Court, is believed to be a world first
- Judge rules the son can adopt the baby boy and become his legal father
- But critics have called for urgent reforms to prevent abuses of fertility law
In a procedure believed to be a world first, a fertility clinic arranged the woman’s pregnancy using a donor egg and her son’s sperm.
She offered to have the baby – with her husband’s consent – after plans by their son to have an IVF child with another female relative collapsed.
The extraordinary arrangement emerged when a High Court judge ruled that the son can now adopt the baby boy and become his legal father – even though in the eyes of the law he is also the infant’s brother.
However, the move was met with howls of protest by critics, who described the procedure as ‘dubious’ and called for urgent reforms to prevent abuses of fertility law.
Mrs Justice Theis, who did not identify the family, the clinic or the local authority in the area where they live, said: ‘The arrangement the parties entered into is not one, as far as I am aware, that either this court or the clinic have previously encountered and although highly unusual is entirely lawful under the relevant statutory provisions.’
The father, who is in his mid-20s and lives alone, has wanted to be a parent ‘for some considerable time’ but waited until he had a settled job and home so he could provide ‘the care a child would need’.
The judge said he discussed the issue openly with family and close friends and arranged for another relative to act as surrogate mother, but the woman dropped out because of a medical condition.
At that stage, Mrs Justice Theis said, the man’s mother discussed with her husband the possibility of stepping in to help.
The family attended a series of counselling sessions and discussions with the clinic, which is licensed by regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
The plans, described by the centre’s medical director as unique, were then given the go-head after ‘careful consideration’.
The baby, now seven months old, was born at full term and now lives with his father. However the judge warned others not to embark on surrogacy deals without ‘comprehensive legal advice’ because the process is a ‘legal minefield’.
Mrs Justice Theis said that under the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which governs surrogacy arrangements, the woman who carried the child is the legal mother. Her husband is the legal father because he consented to the pregnancy.
Rules stipulate that a surrogate mother must hand over a child to two parents – usually a couple ‘in an enduring family relationship’.
Under the law, it would be a crime to hand over the baby to the biological father alone.
But the judge argued that the adoption would not break laws because the baby and its father are legally related already as brothers. Social workers backed the adoption, saying it would ‘strengthen the bond’ the father and child already share’.
A report described how the baby ‘clearly has formulated a secure attachment to the father’, adding: ‘The father understands that the child will need to know about how he was conceived and feels that he will utilise the security of the family structure to support his son in understanding that he is a very much wanted child.’
Another report said the mother and her husband regard the child as their grandson, adding that the family want the child to know about the circumstances surrounding his birth.
Mrs Justice Theis said the closeness of the family was a ‘critical feature’ of the case.
‘The strength of these familial relationships, and the consequent support they provide now and in the future, will ensure the child’s lifelong needs are met,’ she added.
But last night critics said the law should never permit such an arrangement.
Author and broadcaster on family issues Jill Kirby said: ‘The ethics in this case are very dubious indeed. If the HFEA considers this to be a legal procedure, there is an urgent need to look at the law again.’
Patricia Morgan, a leading researcher on family policy, said: ‘This child will have so much confusion in its background.
‘The evidence suggests that the further we move away from two biological parents, the less good that is for the child.’
Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, said: ‘This case throws up many concerns and worries. My greatest concern in all of this is the potential emotional damage to the child in years to come, as he tries to work out family relationships that most of us can take for granted.’
The job of the HFEA, established in 1991, is to licence and monitor clinics and embryo research, and provide the public with impartial information about both. Its chairman since last year is former accountant Sally Cheshire.