Wombs and birth certificates are available
The Associated Press, on 2 September 2014, listed 9 steps a Japanese man, Mr Mitsutoki Shigeta, undertook to father 16 surrogate babies in Thailand. The information is from police sources and they say the first baby was born in June 2013. Four were taken to Cambodia and the rest remain in Thailand.
It would be instructive to go through these steps one by one. The AP quotes are in italic.
1. Mitsutoki Shigeta hired surrogacy scouts and fertility doctor in Bangkok.
Not really. Mr Mitsutoki Shigeta initially hired two fertility firms. The first was the New Life Clinic whose central office is located in Tblisi, Georgia, a former Soviet Republic and is operated by Ms Mariam Kukunashvili. Ms Mariam told the press that she assisted Shigeta with his two original babies but then backed out because of his insistent demands for more.
The other fertility doctor is Dr Pisit Tantiwattanakul, who runs the All IVF Clinic in Bangkok. He apparently handled all the remaining 14 infants. He has been summoned for police questioning but has failed to turn up. The police have yet to issue a warrant. Both these clinics have been closed.
2. The doctor’s fertility clinic handled implantation of the embryos.
Note that no hospital was involved.
Mitsutoki Shigeta, alleged father of 16 Thai surrogate babies.
3. The clinic handled prenatal care and deliveries of the babies spread out at nine Bangkok hospitals. The babies, all born via cesarean section, include four sets of twins.
This is strange. Before delivery, the nurse asks for the prenatal booklet that the pregnant patient is required to carry. One glance at that would betray the surrogate. Besides this, we have press reports saying that Dr Pisit delivered at least one at his own clinic. Cesarean sections are unusual for Thailand and only done in an emergency. Twins are common because fertility doctors implant two embryos in the hope that at least one will take.
4. Newborns were taken to a Bangkok condominium owned by Mitsutoki Shigeta, where nannies cared for them.
That agrees with later reports.
5. Birth certificates were issued from at least five district offices in Bangkok.
That subterfuge should not work because all birth certificates end up in the Ministry of Interior computer.
6. The babies’ names were registered at the address of Shigeta’s Bangkok condominium.
For bureaucratic reasons, the infant is given a temporary address, at or near the hospital. On the same line, the new born is given a Thai national ID number. The baby has no permanent address on the birth certificate.
7. Mitsutoki Shigeta went to juvenile and family court to get custody from the surrogate mothers, some of whom told police they were instructed to lie about having an affair with Shigeta to facilitate the transfer of custody.
What court? The judiciary also has a central computer that should be able to notice Shigeta’s 16 repeat performances.
8. District offices issued documents stating that he is the biological father and has custody.
How could they do that without his DNA that was not available until late August?
Dr Pisit Tantiwattanakul of All IVF Clinic who provided services to Mitsutoki Shigeta.
9. Those documents were used to issue the babies’ passports.
Passports? Japanese or Thai? There is no word that he got any passport. Were the four infants smuggled to Cambodia?
A birth certificate (sutibut) is hurriedly typed out at the district office. It need not bear the signature of the mother of father. It is signed only by the applicant (puu-jaeng) and one or two district officials. The applicant must give his name, address, ID number and his relationship to the baby.
The certificate could be entirely engineered by a third party applicant. Neither the district nor the hospital verifies the data.
While Mitsutoki Shigeta has fled the country, his Thai lawyer submitted his DNA sample. That sample, genuine or not, matched as the father of all 16 surrogates. The mothers have not been checked and now the speculation is that they are not really surrogates but were artificially inseminated.
An Australian case of refusing a Downs Syndrome baby is what broke the story and prompted Thai Immigration to close the door. We learn from the Australian ambassador in Bangkok of a mass-production operation with the surrogates getting passports and citizenship. Dozens are waiting to leave.
The Japanese press has been very quiet, running only wire service reports. Apparently they have been warned of legal action by Mr Yasumitsu Shigeta, 49, who is the father of Mitsutoki. Mr Yasumitsu is a mobile phone magnate and the 11th richest businessman in Japan according to Forbes.
The Australian press has been far more enterprising with TV interviews of surrogate families. Some of these turned out to be married gays, pedophiles and child abusers.
One Thai clinic that handled the Australians was IVFParenting.com. It was founded in early 2013 by Ms Kamonthip (Joy) Musikawongm aged about 30. She studied agricultural sciences at Kasetsart University and graduated in 2006.
Mr Yasumitsu Shigeta, father of Mitsutoki, and the 11th richest businessman in Japan.
The legality of this was very clear in 2011 when young Vietnamese girls were impregnated at a Bangkok hospital. We learned then that surrogacy was only legal if the surrogate mother was a blood relative of the biological mother or father. The relationship had to be personal, not commercial.
In Australia, commercial surrogacy is also forbidden but an altruistic arrangement can be made to cover expenses. It appears the Australians see an advantage in Thailand, as expensive as it might be.
In Japan there is no definitive law but in 2008, the Science Council proposed a ban on surrogacy and said that doctors, agents and their clients should be punished for commercial provisions.
Judges find it difficult to distinguish between commercial and altruistic engagements. In any event, commercial contracts or promises to pay would never stand up in a Thai court.
There are many things illegal in Thailand like prostitution, for instance. Shigeta has left a paper trail that implicates many. You never know the law until someone gets indicted… and such action is unlikely on this surrogate issue. Wait and see.