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On its face, surrogacy may seem like a relatively straightforward arrangement. A woman agrees to carry a child to term on behalf of another couple, then, once born, that woman relinquishes all parental rights to the child. The surrogate mother is typically compensated for the process. In practice, however, surrogacy can be much more complicated, especially when things go wrong.

One case highlights just how quickly things can go astray in these types of cases. A woman agreed to serve as a surrogate for a Chinese couple and therefore had an embryo from the couple transferred to her. If she had simply carried that child and given birth to it, then the matter may have been pretty unremarkable. However, the woman later discovered she was carrying another child. But they were not twins.

Instead, the woman had become pregnant by her husband. Since her husband was African-American, when the two children were born, they had obvious dissimilarities in their appearances. However, the surrogate mother was not made aware of this fact until she was shown a picture of the children. When she raised this concern with the agency overseeing the surrogacy, her worries were brushed aside. With delays in DNA testing, the child was not returned to his biological mother until almost two months after his birth. To make matters worse, the agency overseeing the process demanded that the surrogate mother return several thousands of dollars that had been spent on the care of the second child, as it was not part of the surrogacy contract.

The surrogate mother has now filed a lawsuit against the surrogacy agency. Surrogacy contracts need to be thorough and account for just about any issue that could arise, even if they are unlikely to occur.

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