Husband will be the legal father even in cases of sperm mix-up as long as he consented to IVF treatment
Singapore: Two years after the only known case of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) mix-up here made the headlines, the Ministry of Law is seeking public feedback on proposed laws making clear the legal status and parentage of such children.
Under the proposed laws, the birth mother - or gestational mother - and her husband who consented to the assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatment will by default be the legal parents of the child. This will ensure that the child "will not be left effectively parentless if no one wants the child" in cases of mistakes like an IVF mix-up, the ministry explained in its public consultation paper put up on its and REACH's websites today.
If the husband did not consent to his wife undergoing the ART procedure but has accepted the child as a child of the marriage, he will also be treated as the legal father.
The Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Bill's premise is that an ART child should have a legal mother and father.
The proposed laws will, however, also give the courts flexibility in taking into account circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Within two years of the discovery of a mistake or commencement of the Bill - whichever is the later - an interested party may make an application to the court to be declared as the father or mother of the child.
The court would consider factors such as the wishes and opinions of the child, the applicant's intentions, his or her biological relationship with the child as well as ability to provide for the child's needs.
The consultation paper includes four alternatives the ministry considered but does not recommend. They include having the court determine legal parenthood on a case-by-case basis, or not giving legal status to third parties whose eggs, sperm or embryos were inadvertently used, vis-a-vis the child.
The Bill is likely to be introduced in Parliament in the first half of next year and could become law by the end of next year, said the ministry.
Asked if it was prompted by the 2010 Thomson Medical Centre case where a woman had a baby through IVF using sperm that was not her husband's by mistake, the ministry said it had been studying legislation in this area with the Ministry of Health since early that year, before the case came to light.
The woman is now suing the related parties for damages.
The catalyst for the proposed laws: Increasing demand for ART treatment, and the increasing number of children conceived through ART in recent years. The number of such babies rose from 720 in 2006 to 1,308 in 2010, and the number of ART cycles done has grown from 2,432 in 2006 to 4,672 last year, according to the Ministry of Health.
Dr Yu Su Ling, senior consultant in the Singapore General Hospital's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said the proposed legislation was probably the best arrangement in instances of ART mix-ups, subject to any decision by the court.
"It was the couple that wanted the baby and even if there is a mistake, the child has been born and will have a gestational mother and father," she said.
The public consultation closes on Dec 20.--Courtesy of Today