Buddhists debate surrogacy ethics

Buddhists debate surrogacy ethics

A seminar organised Sunday by Buddhism advocates heard that surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures raise a number of moral questions and should not be encouraged.

Phra Fukit Chitipanyo, of Wat Jak Daeng in Samut Prakan, said surrogacy is often commercially exploited and those involved — especially brokers and surrogate mothers — are motivated by financial interests.

According to Phra Fukit, surrogacy and IVF are not in line with Samma-Ajiva in the noble eightfold path. Samma-Ajiva, or how to make a living ethically, involves the ethical principle of non-exploitation.

The monks' concerns were shared by guest speakers and participants of the seminar at Suan Mokkh Bangkok, in Chatuchak district.

Several participants agreed IVF procedures can lead to commercial exploitation of women as surrogate mothers.

The seminar took place in the light of a scandal involving 24-year-old Japanese businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta, who reportedly fathered 15 babies via Thai surrogates.

Phra Maha Kirati Thirapanyo, of Wat Pa Boonlom in Ubon Ratchathani, also raised concerns about the disposal of surplus embryos.

The monk said fertility clinics performing IVF procedures implant healthy embryos, but the unused ones are usually destroyed, left to die, or used in research.

Phra Maha Kirati said disposal of unused embryos is considered immoral and unethical by Buddhism advocates.

It is believed that life begins at the time an egg is fertilised by a sperm, he said, so destroying an embryo is tantamount to killing a human life which goes against Buddhist teachings.

As surrogacy has become a business with vast interests at stake, he said, it is important to examine the intentions of those involved when it comes to ethical issues.

Phra Maha Kirati was a physician before he joined the monkhood.

Phra Wichit Thammachito, of Wat Pho Phuek in Nonthaburi, said breakthroughs in medical technology have long posed a number of ethical questions.

He cited organ thefts as an example, following developments in organ transplant technology.

Buddhism advocates should adopt the "right attitude" towards these issues, Phra Wichit said.

It was also suggested that couples should adopt children instead of attempting to have them using surrogates because there are many abandoned children in need of homes.

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