The case of the death of a child born in Russia by a surrogate mother with the help of IVF needs further judicial review

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On July 15, the Basmanskiy Court of Moscow, in a closed court hearing, considered the arrest of four doctors accused of human with the help of surrogacy. As a result of the hearing, a charge was brought forward: the negligence of the doctors, resulting in the death of one child.

Among the four doctors arrested are two from the NGC clinic – Dr. Taras Ashitkov and his wife – reproductive specialist Yuliana Ivanova, obstetrician from Maternity Hospital No. 3 – Valentina Chernyshova and obstetrician-gynecologist of the Family Planning Center – Lilia Panaioti.

Overnight, all the stones fell on the NGC clinic, Maternity hospital number 3 and the Family Planning Center.

It is known that this incident began in 2019. At that time, the defendants in the case and two more doctors successfully performed all the necessary procedures, as a result of which the embryos were successfully transferred into the uterine cavity of the surrogate mother. In December 2019, the surrogate mother gave birth to a boy; later, the newborn was in the apartment under the care of a nanny. Shortly after birth the child suddenly died, the cause of death was bilateral lower lobe bronchopneumonia.

In January of this year, in the city of Odintsovo, officers of the Investigative Committee for the Moscow Region accused four doctors of negligence and human trafficking, resulting in death. Lawyers and an investigator petitioned for house arrest for four doctors.

After the body of a newborn boy was found in one of the apartments in the village of Vnissok, investigators also found three more babies in the apartment. During the investigation, it turned out that these babies live here as long as their foreign genetic parents were preparing  documents on the basis of which they can take the children abroad.

It is known that before this incident, doctors Taras Ashitkov and his wife Yuliana Ivanova did not work at the NGC clinic, but worked at the K + 31 Medical Center. The child’s birth certificate was issued by St. Petersburg State Budgetary Health-care Institution “Maternity Hospital No. 16”.

Due to this incident, K + 31 Medical Center was banned from conducting surrogacy programs, and two doctors moved to work in other hospitals. In June of this year, two doctors began working at NGC as reproductive specialists.

It is worth noting that Dr. Taras Ashitkov has always been a legend in the field of reproduction and the last hope of many infertile families.

According to patients who asked for help from representatives of the Russian, American and European Associations of Human Reproduction, Dr. Taras Ashitkov made wonders: many couples from all over the world who suffered from infertility came to him for IVF. They are absolutely grateful to Dr. Taras Ashitkov  for realizing their long-standing dream of having children and they hope that justice will prevail.

Russia is one of the few countries where surrogacy is allowed and there is an appropriate legal framework, so the question of whether the doctor currently working at the NGC clinic will be accused of other illegal operations remains to be seen.

According to the management of the NGC clinic, they fully comply with the laws and regulations regarding assisted reproduction in Russia. Before hiring doctors, a background check was done. The doctors had a good reputation and had never involved into something illegal. They firmly believe that the Bar Association will treat doctors and patients in the most fair manner.

Information on the current case:

Episode 1: In March 2014 an IVF program was performed, in December 2014 a child of a Filipino citizen was born. A surrogate mother took the baby to the Philippines.

Episode 2: In January 2016 the IVF program  was performed, in October 2016 two children were born. Four months later (February 2017) the birth certificates were received. The children belonged to the same Filipino citizen as in the Episode 1. The surrogate mother and the Filipino citizen were registered on the child’s birth certificate. In May 2017, a surrogate mother took children to the Philippines.

Episode 3: In July 2016 an IVF program was performed, in March 2017 a child was born. Two new citizens of the Philippines received birth certificates. Three months later, the child was taken to the Philippines by an unidentified person.

Episode 4: in October 2016 an IVF program was performed, in June 2017 a child was born, the same citizen as in episode 3 received a birth certificate. Two months later, the child was taken to the Philippines by an unidentified person.

Episode 5: In April 2017 an IVF program  was performed, in January 2018, a child was born. Six months later, the child was taken to the Philippines by an unidentified person. The birth certificate also listed the same Philippine citizen as in episodes 3 and 4.

Episode 6: In July 2018an IVF program was performed, in April 2019, two children were born. Three months later, the same citizens of the Philippines who appear in episodes 3, 4 and 5 are registered on the birth certificate of twins. Four months later (October 2019), two children were taken to the Philippines by unidentified persons.

Episode 7: In December 2018, a surrogate mother crossed the Philippines border  being pregnant 8 month and gave birth to a baby there. According to the investigation, the child was transferred to an unidentified person.

Episode 8: Also in December 2018 the IVF program was performed, in August 2019 the child was born. A month later, a surrogate mother and a Thai citizen received a birth certificate.

Then, the surrogate mother made a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation for a newborn child, and the notary signed an “Agreement on the procedure for parental rights by a parent living separately from the child,” after which the child was taken to Thailand by unidentified persons.

Episode 9: in February 2019, an IVF program was performed, the child was born in November 2019 (later the baby was found in a rented apartment in Odintsovo), in January 2020 he was given a birth certificate, the surrogate mother was registered as the mother of the child, in while information about the father is missing.

Episode 10: In March 2019,  an IVF program was performed, in October 2019, two children were born. The birth certificates issued in December 2019 registered the same Filipino citizen as in episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6. These children, just like the child from episode 9, were found in a rented apartment in Odintsovo.

Episode 11: In April 2019, an IVF program was performed, in December of the same year, a child was born. The child was living in the same rented apartment in Odintsovo as the child from episodes 9 and 10, the child’s birth certificate was not issued.

According to the forensic examination of the corpse, on January 9, 2020, at about 4 a.m., the newborn child died from an infection caused by bilateral lower lobe bronchopneumonia.

All available information was summarized and as a result it became clear:

  (1) the identity of the owner of the biological material has not been established;

  (2) Rosjurconsulting and European Surrogacy Center are involved in all cases;

(3) From birth to departure from Russia, all children lived with nannies in an apartment.

In five episodes, the birth certificate of children is issued by the same citizen of the Philippines.

In four episodes, the gap between the date of birth of the child and the actual issued birth certificate was too large (about four months).

 In three episodes, the surrogate mother issued a birth certificate for the child, but no certificate was issued for the dead child.

The first eight incidents occurred at the European Medical Center, and the last three occurred at another clinic, Pokrovskie Vorota K + 31.

With a concrete analysis of the above incidents, the following points become clear:

  1. These few things have nothing to do with the COVID epidemic – the story happened much earlier (from March 2014 to January 2020). Therefore, the statement about the impossibility of reuniting children and parents, unfortunately, is not connected with reality.

2. The Resolution does not mention the sudden death syndrome or the hematoma of the deceased child: according to the autopsy results, the child’s death was caused by the fact that the child suffered from bilateral lower lobe bronchopneumonia while he was at home.

3. Many of the circumstances provided for in the Legislative Regulation, of course must be verified. However, all this refers to the stage of responsibility of the surrogate motherhood agency and the surrogate mother (as can be seen from the motivational part of the order).

4. Without a doubt, this situation is not the responsibility of the doctor: if the person registered in the birth certificate does not have a genetic link with the child, then the doctor will make a decision in conditions of legal uncertainty – Order of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation No. 107n on assisted reproductive technologies allows interpreting the combination of surrogacy and donor embryos as acceptable.

5. The IVF program, which combines surrogacy and the use of fully donated germ cells, can not treat infertility – the court’s decision called it a “recessive form of adoption”, but the investigation concluded that it is human trafficking. In any case, this is a method of childbirth, not a method of treating infertility.

6. It is necessary to establish the work of surrogacy agencies – there is a transparent and understandable plan to control the fate of children from birth by their surrogate mother to the actual transfer to genetic parents, thus, these measures will help prevent the above situations.

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