October 15, 2006
Japanese Woman Gives Birth To Her Grandchild

A Japanese woman serving as a surrogate for her daughter's fertilized egg gave birth to her own grandchild.

A Japanese woman in her 50s gave birth to her own grandchild last year, using an egg from her daughter and sperm from her son-in-law, a doctor has revealed.

It was the first time a woman has acted as a surrogate mother for her daughter in Japan, local media reported.

The case is set to stir debate in Japan where surrogate births are opposed by the government and a key medical group.

The genetic mother and father had to adopt the child (whose sex was not revealed). The Japanese government recognizes the birth mother as the legal mother.

Both Britain and the US have already had cases of grandmother surrogacy.

Kazumasa Hoshino, professor emeritus of life ethics at Kyoto University, said four cases of surrogate births in which grandmothers acted as surrogate mothers had been reported overseas--two each in Britain and the United States--since the 1990s.

Surrogacy could also be swapped around in the opposite order between generations: A daughter could serve as surrogate for her mother and then the daughter could give birth to her own brother or sister. Has anyone done that yet?

But wait, there's more: How about the possibilities that come with egg and embryo freezing? A woman in her 20s who already has a 7 year old daughter could freeze, say, some eggs, then 30 years later her granddaughter could give birth to the granddaughter's aunt or uncle.

Japan's lack of recognition for genetic parents of babies born to surrogates has generated a high profile court case. A Japanese celebrity couple is fighting a legal battle to have themselves declared the parents of their twins who were born to an American woman.

Shinagawa Ward in Tokyo has appealed a court ruling that it must officially register twins who were born to a Japanese couple through an American surrogate mother.

The ward, under instructions from the Justice Ministry, appealed the Tokyo High Court's Sept. 29 ruling that the children of TV celebrity Aki Mukai, 41, and former professional wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, 44, should be registered in consideration of their welfare.

"I hope the Supreme Court will make a decision with my children's happiness in mind," Mukai said following Shinagawa's move. "If it's a decision that we can explain to my children well when they grow up, we can accept it even if it is not in our favor."

One of the fun things about biotechnology is that it creates situations that challenge traditional notions of family.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 15 04:20 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

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