One reason to keep tabs on developments in
bioethics in the UK, the US and Australia is that arguments which convince us
are recycled and used in places like India, Thailand and Singapore. These
countries have high-quality medical technology, but unsophisticated bioethics. As a consequence they tend to adopt a utilitarian ethic without a
robust debate informed by a more metaphysical tradition and by respect for
One example of this is a
bill being considered by India’s parliament which will legalise commercial
surrogacy. The groundwork was laid by a report written by the India Law
Commission last year. It was fairly sketchy and very liberal. But the bill ignored
its key point – that surrogacy should not be commercialised. If the bill passes
in its present form, poor Indian women will be exploited as wombs for hire. The
provisions of the bill which protect the rights of these unfortunate women do
not inspire confidence.
Judging from comments from Indian IVF
clinics, commercial surrogacy will be a bonanza for them. A world-wide market
for surrogate mothers, especially for gay couples, is opening up as adoption becomes
more and more difficult and they expect many clients. It is hard to describe
this as anything other than contemptible colonialism.
I wish bioethicists elsewhere would give
this dangerous and ill-conceived legislation a big raspberry.
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