Australian child protection services are investigating a man accused of abandoning a baby with Down’s syndrome to a surrogate mother in Thailand to assess his suitability to have a young child in his custody.
It comes after local media reported he had served time for molesting two girls under 10 in the late 1990s.
The man and his wife took home only one baby from Thailand after the surrogate mother had twins, leaving behind son Gammy.
The case has made international headlines, causing uproar in Australia.
Besides Down’s syndrome, the six-month-old baby has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection.
Surrogate mother Pattharamon Chanbua has been looking after Gammy as well as two children of her own
Surrogate mother Pattharamon Chanbua has been looking after Gammy as well as two children of her own.
She claims his parents abandoned Gammy and had asked her to have an abortion when she was told of the child’s condition four months after becoming pregnant.
Pattharamon Chanbua, 21, has said the father met the twins, but only took care of the girl and refused to carry or look at Gammy even though the babies were side by side.
The parents have told local media in Australia that they did not know of his existence, and claimed that the allegations made by Pattharamon Chanbua are lies.
One local newspaper quoted a family friend saying the parents did know about the boy being born, apparently contradicting their version of events.
“Gammy was very sick when he was born and the biological parents were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best, to live and to say goodbye,” the friend said.
She suggested Pattharamon Chanbua had broken the surrogacy agreement by giving birth in a smaller hospital instead of an international one, which meant that the biological parents had no legal rights to the babies.
The couple had been locked in a legal battle with Pattharamon Chanbua to take home their daughter and she had insisted on keeping Gammy to give him a Thai funeral, the friend alleged.
Both the Australian government and Thai health authorities are now looking into the case and the larger issue of commercial surrogacy in Thailand, which is mostly unregulated.
The Australian couple and the Thai surrogate mother of baby Gammy who has Down’s syndrome have given conflicting accounts of how he was left behind.
Pattharamon Chanbua, 21, was paid by the Australians to have their child. But they took home only one baby when she had twins, leaving behind Gammy.
The parents of baby Gammy have told local media that they only knew about his healthy twin sister.
However, the surrogate mother said the father visited the twins in the hospital.
Pattharamon Chanbua has claimed that she was asked by the couple to have an abortion once they knew about Gammy’s condition. But she refused as it was against her Buddhist beliefs.
She plans to keep Gammy and raise him as her own child. Besides Down’s syndrome, the six-month-old baby has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection.
Pattharamon Chanbua has claimed that she was asked by the Australian couple to have an abortion once they knew about Gammy’s condition (photo Reuters)
The case has made international headlines and caused an uproar particularly in Australia, where both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have expressed regret over the situation.
The parents reportedly told Channel 9 that they had a daughter of Gammy’s age but she did not have a brother.
They said they had experienced trouble with the surrogacy agency, describing it as “traumatizing”.
The unnamed couple, who live south of Perth, also denied any knowledge of a son to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“We saw a few people at the hospital. We [didn’t] know who the surrogate was – it was very confusing. There was a language barrier,” they said.
They added that they had saved for a long time to pay for the surrogacy and it had “taken every cent we have”. They have been told that the agency now no longer exists, claims the father.
But Pattharamon Chanbua told Fairfax Media that the father, who is in his 50s, “came to the hospital to take care of the girl but never looked Gammy in the face or carried him”, even though the two babies stayed next to each other.
She also said she was now considering suing the parents.
Politicians have since weighed in, with Australian PM Tony Abbott calling it an “incredibly sad story”. He said the Australian government would look into the case.
It is illegal to pay for surrogacy in Australia, so couples have to find a surrogate who is happy to carry the child for no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses.
The difficulty in finding such surrogates has prompted some Australians to head overseas for commercial surrogacy arrangements.
Surrogacy campaigners call for clearer regulation after a surrogate mother in Thailand was left with a Down’s syndrome baby when his Australian parents refused to take him.
The boy, whose twin sister was taken to Australia by the unidentified couple, needs urgent medical care.
The surrogate mother in Thailand says she will raise the boy as her own and an online campaign has raised $185,000 for his treatment.
The case has raised fears Australia could ban international surrogacy.
The baby boy, named Gammy, has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection as well as Down’s syndrome. He is currently receiving urgent treatment in a Thai hospital.
Gammy has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection as well as Down’s syndrome (photo ABC)
Pattaramon Chanbua was paid $15,000 to be a surrogate mother for the Australian couple.
The couple asked Pattaramon Chanbua to have an abortion after doctors informed her of the child’s condition four months after becoming pregnant. She refused, saying it was against her Buddhist beliefs.
Australian PM Tony Abbott said it was “an incredibly sad story” and illustrated “some of the pitfalls involved in this particular business”.
It is illegal to pay for surrogacy in Australia so couples have to find a surrogate who is happy to carry the child for no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses.
Advocacy group Surrogacy Australia said this “red tape” means many couples choose to go abroad to find a surrogate, with 400 or 500 each year venturing to India, Thailand, the US and other places.
Rachel Kunde, the group’s executive director, said she hoped the case would lead to better regulation by the Australian authorities of international surrogacy, rather than an outright ban.
“Our greatest fear is that Australia is going to ban international surrogacy altogether,” she said.
“We are hoping that the government will make accessing surrogates in Australia easier.”
Child actor Harry Whittaker, who played Leo Dingle on soap opera Emmerdale, has died aged three, ITV has confirmed.
The broadcaster said Harry Whittaker died on July 1, although the cause of death has not yet been announced.
Harry Whittaker was honored at the end of Thursday’s episode with a message which read: “For Harry, with love”.
Mark Charnock, who played Leo Dingle’s on-screen father Marlon Dingle, called Harry “our superhero”, adding he “lit up our lives”.
Harry Whittaker played Leo Dingle on ITV’s soap opera Emmerdale
“We were lucky to know you and hear you laugh,” he tweeted.
Harry Whittaker, who had Down’s syndrome, first appeared on the soap in May 2011, after a storyline in which his on-screen parents, Marlon and Rhona Goskirk, had to decide whether or not to keep a child diagnosed with the condition.
He was one of two child actors to play the character, alongside Theo Tasker.
An Emmerdale spokesperson said: “Very sadly we can confirm Harry Whittaker’s passing last Tuesday, 1 July.
“We will all miss him greatly and have offered our sincerest condolences to his family at this very sad time.”
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School announce they have moved a step closer to being able to treat disorders caused by an extra chromosome.
They have “switched off” the chromosome that causes the symptoms of Down’s syndrome in human cells in the lab.
The research, published in Nature, could one day lead to new medical treatments for the condition.
Humans are born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, including two gender chromosomes, making a total of 46 in each cell.
People with Down’s syndrome have three – rather than two – copies of chromosome 21.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have “switched off” the chromosome that causes the symptoms of Down’s syndrome in human cells in the lab
This causes symptoms such as learning disabilities and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a greater risk of blood disorders and heart defects.
Gene therapy, which uses genes to treat illnesses, has been attempted for problems caused by a single defective gene. But until now, the idea of being able to silence the effects of a whole chromosome had appeared beyond the realms of possibility, even in the lab.
Now scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have shown that, in theory, this might be possible but would take decades of research.
A team led by Dr. Jeanne Lawrence inserted a gene called XIST into the stem cells of a person with Down’s syndrome grown in the lab.
The gene plays a role in normal cell development by switching off one of the two X chromosomes present in female embryos, ensuring daughters avoid a double dose of X chromosome genes.
The experiments showed that the gene was able to silence the extra copy of chromosome 21, helping correct unusual patterns of growth in the cells.
Dr. Jeanne Lawrence said: “The research means that we have a new way – right away – to study the cellular basis for Down’s syndrome, that could help identify drugs for Down’s syndrome.
“At the same time we have made it conceivable – not necessarily possible or effective, that still needs to be proven – but conceivable that you could use just a single gene to correct the over-expression of the whole chromosome. So it makes genetic therapy for Down’s syndrome more conceivable where it really wasn’t before.”