Ethical Screening Guidelines for Surrogates

December 13, 2016 by Frank Golden

graphic of women looking up at the words "WRONG" and "RIGHT."

The process of gestational surrogacy has many moving parts that must synchronize in near perfect rhythm to reach the ultimate goal of producing a baby for a loving couple or individual. Through my three personal journeys and with experience running my own surrogacy agency, I have become quite familiar with the vital role that ethics play in the proper management of a surrogacy journey. There is business, ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine), legal, and medical ethics to consider.

One of the most important ethical aspects of a surrogacy journey is the selection of a surrogate. Intended Parents put their trust and confidence into a woman with the hopes of making their parenting dreams come true. It takes a special type of individual to become a Surrogate, and most agencies lose sight of their moral compass when selecting which applicants to accept. I have personally witnessed in-take specialists, at various agencies who actively onboard underqualified candidates. They simply choose to accept the candidate because it is more expedient and financially beneficial.

I recently observed an example of unethical Surrogate recruiting. In fact, that’s what inspired me to write this very blog. I recently read about a case in which an agency recruited a Surrogate who was forty years old. She had also not given birth for over ten years.  I thought to myself, “Wow! Is this really happening!?” This was just one example; far worse negligence takes place. Agency owners and intake staff must be trained to consider what is best for Intended Parents, and best for the overall health of their Surrogates. It’s shocking to think that agencies are regularly taking these risks, failing their clients in the process. They are actively taking steps to match candidates that are not adequately fit to carry a baby to full-term with minimal to no complications. Agencies should always present Surrogates to Intended Parents that are going to give them the greatest chance to receive a healthy baby.

Unfortunately, owning and operating a surrogacy agency in the United States is an unregulated business venture. Anyone can form an agency. Sometimes these owners are not always knowledgeable or qualified to make medical decisions or provide proper service and support. An example of this would be an agency owner who was a previous surrogate. She may accept an applicant with a history of gestational diabetes because she too was diagnosed with that during her own pregnancy, and feels that it was not a “big deal.” Ethically speaking, that owner should not consider such applicants to carry a baby for her clients. Why even take the risk? Agencies that operate in this manner are guilty of committing gross negligence to their client-base and are doing a huge disservice to the industry’s reputation.

What differentiates Golden Surrogacy from other providers is that my husband and I were Intended Parents. It is through this lens which implores us to review each potential surrogate as if they were going to be part of our own surrogacy journey. Would I want this woman as my Surrogate? Could she successfully maintain a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy? At Golden Surrogacy, we would rather do what’s right; NOT what’s more convenient or profitable. Sadly, not every agency conducts itself in this manner. Becoming a surrogate is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It is the responsibility of myself and of my colleagues to exercise ethical judgement when selecting who is fit for this extraordinary journey.