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Legal battle over dead surrogate's baby

Dr. Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

12 February 2005

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[BioNews, London] The mother of a UK woman who died giving birth to another couple's child has said she intends to fight for custody of the baby. Marilyn Caltabiano says she wants the commissioning parents to hand over the baby boy so that she can give him to a younger, childless couple. Natasha Caltabiano, a 29-year-old mother of two, suffered a ruptured aorta and died from a heart attack 90 minutes after the child was born, at St Michael's hospital, Bristol. Natasha had developed high blood pressure during the pregnancy. The baby was handed over to the commissioning parents a week after the surrogate's death, and returned with them to their home in Northern Ireland.

Ms Caltabiano became a surrogate after hearing from a friend's sister, who had also done it. She designed a website advertising her willingness to help another couple, through which she made contact with the commissioning parents. The 52-year old father visited her a number of times throughout 2003 and 2004, to donate sperm with which she artificially inseminated herself. The man and his 48-year-old wife already have five children from previous relationships. Now, Natasha's mother says she wants the baby to go to another couple. 'This was Natasha's first surrogacy. I feel it was a complete waste of my daughter's life to give the baby to an older couple who already have children', she said.

After her daughter's death, Marilyn Caltabiano attacked the system of surrogacy, which she says encourages women to put themselves through the risks of pregnancy. Surrogacy UK, the agency that had helped with the arrangement, said that was 'doing all it can to provide support for everyone involved'. Following Surrogacy UK's rules, the commissioning couple had taken out a life insurance policy on Ms Caltabiano, which is payable to her next of kin. This will be used to buy a home for the existing children, said Ms Caltabiano's mother. According to newspaper reports at the time, the couple are refusing to pay the bulk of the ?8,850 promised as expenses payments to the surrogate. They say that they have incurred huge legal bills because of Ms Caltabiano's death.

Under UK law, Natasha Caltabiano would have been the child's legal mother, and her partner, if he consented, would have been its legal father. To become a child's legal guardians, commissioning parents must adopt a baby born to a surrogate mother. Alternatively, the surrogate mother and her partner must transfer their parental rights to the commissioning parents, when the baby is aged between six weeks and six months old. According to newspaper reports, Natasha's long-term partner Paul Brazier is currently estranged from the Caltabiano family, so the five-week old baby apparently has no legal guardians at present.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 12 February 2005   Date Updated: 12 February 2005
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