domingo, 25 de febrero de 2018

Thai court grants Japanese man custody of 13 surrogate children

Thai court grants Japanese man custody of 13 surrogate children


Thai court grants Japanese man custody of 13 surrogate children
Earlier this month BioEdge reported on a court case involving a 28-year-old Japanese man, Mitsutoki Shigeta, who is believed to have fathered 15 children via surrogacy in Thailand. Authorities had taken Shigeta’s children into custody after concerns were raised about their welfare.

Since then, the court has returned custody of 13 of the children to Shigeta, saying that he  demonstrated that he is financially stable and had showed his plans to care for the children. The court said he had a right to custody because the children were born before the introduction of a new law prohibiting commercial surrogacy, and because the surrogate mothers signed documents waiving their custody rights.

Shigeta is the son of Japanese tycoon Yasumitsu Shigeta, founder and chief executive officer of the Japanese communications and technology company Hikari Tsushin. He earns approximately earns over 100 million baht ($3.1 million) in annual dividends, according to a statement released by the court.

Shigeta, who has kept an extremely low profile, did not attend the court’s sessions. A Thai lawyer represented him.

Shigeta told the court via video-link that he wanted to have a large family with which he could share his sizeable inheritance.

Others have offered a different story. Mariam Kukunashvili, founder of the New Light clinic that recruited some of the surrogate mothers, said Shigeta told her “he wanted to win elections and could use his big family for voting”.

“He said he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year, and that he wanted to continue the baby-making process until he’s dead,” Kukunashvili told the Associated Press in 2014. 

Sam Everingham, global director of the charity Families Through Surrogacy, said that the case was extraordinary and worrying. “It does cast surrogacy in a bad light when agencies or parents can get away with having this many children in one country”.

BioEdge is a bioethical gadfly, nipping and biting at what we perceive to be bad arguments and unhealthy developments. But the recent story about a Japanese man who fathered 13 children with the help of mothers hired in Thailand suggests that almost any bioethical approach is better than none – and “none” was the position of the Bangkok judge who awarded him custody.

"The petitioner is an heir and president of a well-known company listed in a stock exchange in Japan, owner and shareholder in many companies ... which shows the petitioner has professional stability and an ample income to raise all the children. Therefore, it is ruled that all the 13 children are legal children of the petitioner … and the petitioner is their sole guardian."
Any bioethicist would immediately comment that this decision ignores many important issues. Are children just property? What about the rights of the surrogate mothers? Is it right to raise 13 boys without mothers? Is it right to raise 13 boys together like cattle? Is wealth a substitute for parenting? Is fatherhood simply a matter of sperm donation?

It sounds as though the judge merely wanted to hand the boys over to Japan. In his words (as reported) I can detect no inkling of the fact that the issue is more complicated than a commercial property transaction. It sounds as though Thailand urgently needs bioethics education.

Michael Cook
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