In a strange story of in vitro fertilization (IVF) gone awry, a couple from Guangzhou injected eight fertilized embryos into three separate women and, surprise surprise, out popped eight babies! The biological mother had triplets, and also hired two surrogate mothers who gave birth to twins and triplets. The babies are now over a year old, but the story is still causing controversy because not only are they violating the one-child policy, but surrogacy illegal in China. Officials are promising to hold the participating medical institutions responsible.
After trying to have a baby for years and failing, the couple decided to invest in IVF. Figuring on the 30% success rate, they tried for eight embryos, assuming only two or three would survive.
The really bizarre decision seems to have happened when all eight embryos survived. Instead of throwing a couple on ice and trying their first pregnancy solo, they went ahead and implanted all eight at once – three in the mother, and five split between two hired surrogate mothers. In October 2010, four girls and four boys were born.
The family is apparently wealthy enough to cover all the expenses of such an incredibly large family. The IVF process itself is estimated to have cost them one million RMB, not to mention the surrogacy fee. They’ve also hired 11 domestic employees to help care for the babies, which is another 100,000RMB per month.
Guangzhou Daily reports that the surrogacy racket in Guangzhou is quite elaborate. Clients can choose not only their surrogate’s height and weight, but can also choose minute details such as eye lid folds or the thickness of her hair.
Even worse are the options for implantation and fertilization. The fee for normal surrogacy is around 120,000RMB, where the fertilized egg is simply implanted in the surrogate. For 150,000RMB, an unfertilized egg is implanted, and sperm from the father injected. For 200,000RMB, the creepy father-to-be can impregnate the surrogate directly, through intercourse.
Commercial surrogacy (surrogacy for compensation, as opposed to altruistic surrogacy, usually performed as a favor between close friends) is illegal in many countries. In China, there is a large market for surrogacy among childless, affluent couples. Because of the strong male gender preference here, Shanghai Daily reported last month that the practices can get seriously grim:
A surrogacy agent company, daiyunzj.com, promised an undercover reporter posing as a customer that for 1 million yuan (US$156,622) the company would have five to seven surrogate mothers become pregnant by the customer’s sperm all at once, simply to ensure one of the babies is a boy.
What doesn’t make sense in the case of the octo-parents in Guangzhou is that they jumped straight to surrogacy without first giving the biological mother a chance. It’s hard to imagine a couple actually wanting eight babies at once. Unless maybe they were inspired by American daytime reality television.
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