Should doctors help patients cross borders for care?

Should doctors help infertility patients who cross borders for care?

It’s a tricky question, and one that I have been asked more than a few times in the context of my project (in fact, I was asked this exact question during my Churchill Fellowship Interview!).  Should we (being Doctors, counsellors, nurses, or even lawyers working in this area) assist a patient to do something that we know is potentially risky, and is at odds with the local law?  I don’t know that I can currently provide an answer, but certainly the question has been at the front of my mind throughout my preparations for my Fellowship.

Ultimately, I hope that my Fellowship will help ensure that patients have access to the most current and accurate information about overseas surrogacy practices and procedures.  I hope that the service providers I will be speaking to will give me a really accurate and honest perspective about what treatment might be like if an Australian patient came to them.  And not just the surrogacy/fertility treatment, but also the experience of living away from home while waiting for a baby to be born – and afterwards during the wait for travel documentation to be approved for the child.  What it might be like to access healthcare for the baby should there be neonatal issues?  And so many other issues…

I hope to speak with families who are currently undertaking the process, so they can let me know what it has been like for them (warts and all?).  What has worked and what they wish they had known before they embarked on their surrogacy journey.

I hope to speak with women who have acted as surrogates, so I can understand their motivations for carrying a baby for another family, and gain a sense of their experiences – physically and emotionally.

I am not a law maker or an ethicist, but I can emphasise that the rights of the child are of utmost importance and whatever decision ends up being made by a patient must be made with their potential child’s best interest in mind.

As a surrogacy counsellor, I can help a patient understand their options and make a truly informed decision about their treatment.  This project will give me an opportunity to gain information that I couldn’t hope to access any other way.  I will be right there, in the countries that are currently providing surrogacy services to Australians.

I wonder if I will feel able to answer the question on my return?

The question “Should doctors help infertility patients who cross borders for care?” is explored in this article published by Reuters on October 6th 2015